Maryland's same-sex marriage bill will go to a final vote in the state senate Thursday with a new name.
The bill, formerly known as the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, was altered a bit and passed a second reading 25-22 Wednesday, NBC Washington's Chris Gordon reported. It goes to a final vote Thursday and is expected to pass.
Senators added protections for religious groups, exempting them from having to provide educational services or insurance coverage for gay couples, and the words "Religious Freedom" were stripped from the official name of the bill.
Supporters of the bill defeated proposals from Republican opponents to allow court clerks to refuse to marry gay couples, prevent schools from "promoting same-sex marriage" and rename the bill "Same-Sex Marriage," the Associated Press reported.
Last week, Sen. James Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, Anne Arundel counties, said he was no longer undecided and would vote in favor of the bill, giving it the 24th voted needed to pass the state senate. It's also expected to pass the House of Delegates, Gordon reported, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Senate President Mike Miller told Gordon that the vote will be very close when it goes to the senate for the third and final reading on Thursday. If it makes it through that chamber, the bill will be presented to the House of Delegates. The liberal-leaning House is expected to vote yes on the measure.
The law could then take effect Oct. 1 or go to referendum for Maryland residents to decide, Gordon reported.
Also Wednesday, President Barack Obama's administration told Congress it won't defend the federal law saying marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, saying it unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples who are legally married but not recognized as such by the federal government, NBC News's Pete Williams reported.