February 16, 2012

Same-sex marriage implementation delayed, debate postponed until Friday

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By Megan Poinski and Justin Snow
Megan@MarylandReporter.com
Justin@MarylandReporter.com

Amendments and debate on the same-sex marriage bill in the House of Delegates were postponed until Friday to give delegates more time to consider amendments.

State House complex at sunset by Thisisbossi at Wikimedia Commons

State House complex at sunset by Thisisbossi at Wikimedia Commons

But not before an amendment to delay the implementation date of the bill to Jan. 1, 2013 was added by voice vote. Del. Wade Kach, R- Baltimore County offered the amendment, which was previously rejected by the joint committee. Kach, who voted against the bill in committee, announced his support of same-sex marriage Thursday morning.

The amendment is meant to ensure that there would be no problems in petitioning the bill to a November referendum if it passes both houses of the General Assembly.

“There can be no games played,” Kach said.

The full House was originally set to debate the controversial bill Thursday morning. It was first put off until 6 p.m., and will be now picked up again at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Before Friday’s session, the Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees will meet to discuss a slew of amendments that have been proposed. After that, the Democratic caucus will meet, and then comes the session.

Opponents predict doom

Opponents of the bill, proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration to allow same-sex marriage in the state, speculated that the delays mean the bill is doomed.

“They don’t have sufficient votes for passage,” Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said after the House recessed on Thursday evening. “When you have a 98-vote majority and still not be able to pass a bill, you delay.”

Supporters said nothing about difficulties in getting enough votes.

“I’m still really positive,” said Del. Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery County. “These are very complicated issues, and these amendments are very complex.”

Dumais, vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, did not know how many amendments there were, but House staff said they had received 15 before Thursday evening’s session began.

Supporters of the same-sex marriage bill seemed content with the Kach amendment that passed Thursday night.

“I think it makes a lot of people comfortable who are worried about the referendum process working,” said Del. Bonnie Cullison, D-Montgomery, a leading proponent of the bill and one of the seven openly gay legislators.

Carrie Evans, the executive director of Equality Maryland, the leading gay rights organization in the state, also expressed satisfaction. Evans noted that the implementation date does not make a great deal of difference to the bill in general.

After the session’s end, Del. Mary Washington, D-Baltimore City, tweeted, “I know its frustrating, but these delays are common with major legislation.”

One of the gay delegates, Washington said that like other far-reaching legislative initiatives, like establishing slots parlors in Maryland, more time is needed for both sides to look at what they are considering and make sure that what is passed is ideal.

But some delegates, like Del. Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, said there is little compromise that can be made.

“We have a divided House and a divided state,” he said.

Absent from Thursday’s session was Del. Veronica Turner, D-Prince George’s, a supporter of the bill. Turner fell ill on Wednesday, and will have a surgical procedure on Friday. Delegates were unsure Thursday night when she may return.