- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ANNAPOLIS | A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland appears to be back on track after two key lawmakers reaffirmed their support a day after missing a scheduled vote on the issue.

Delegates Tiffany Alston, Prince George’s County Democrat, and Jill Carter, Baltimore city Democrat, said Wednesday that they are ready to cast votes on the bill, which is in the House’s 22-member Judiciary Committee.

Mrs. Alston said she missed the scheduled vote Tuesday morning because she needed more time to consider the issue. Mrs. Carter said she wanted to “leverage” her vote to bring attention to proposed state budget cuts to Baltimore city education and to a bill on child custody and welfare that she is sponsoring.

Committee members think Mrs. Alston and Mrs. Carter would cast the 11th and 12th votes needed to advance the bill to the House floor.

The state Senate voted in favor of the bill last week. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has said he will sign the legislation if it is passed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. However, opponents likely will attempt to force the issue to Maryland voters through a 2012 referendum.

Mrs. Alston issued a statement Wednesday stating that she has long supported gay marriage despite opposition in her district and that she is ready to vote “based on what [she believes] in.” She did not explicitly say she will vote in favor of the bill.

Mrs. Carter had said she withheld her vote Tuesday morning to help her constituents, then said Wednesday that she never intended to vote against the legislation and was ready to vote Tuesday afternoon after a meeting with legislators, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

“I was ready yesterday,” she said. “I did not hold up the bill. The votes were not in the committee or on the floor, I believe. I don’t control whether a vote is taken or not taken. There is no way in the world to stop something that is this important.”

Delegate Curt Anderson, Baltimore city Democrat and Judiciary Committee member, said he expects the committee to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon and that further delays could seriously damage chances of passage.

“If the vote doesn’t occur tomorrow, you can write the obituary,” he said, adding that other bills dealing with the state budget and public safety could surpass gay marriage as House priorities.

Delegate Ben Barnes, Prince George’s Democrat, said he never thought the bill was in serious jeopardy and that it has enough Democratic support throughout the chamber.

“Observing from afar, you had two legislators committed to equality who had some concerns on other important issues,” he said. “At the end of the day, I felt confident that they would be there in support of equality, and they are.”

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