February: Same-sex marriage month
That's the date Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian Frosh has set for a hearing on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, a bill that would allow Maryland to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The hearing is set for 1 p.m., and will wrap in all other bills "relating to same-sex marriage and civil unions," according to the schedule.
Additional bills could include the civil unions bill that Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, says he'll introduce.
A review by The Baltimore Sun indicates that the bill allowing full gay marriage rights has the support of exactly enough senators and a bare majority of delegates on the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary panels to proceed to floor votes.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., has said that he'll wait and see if the Senate passes the bill before he takes it up in his committee.
Eighteen of the state's 47 senators have co-sponsored the Senate bill. The House companion has 58 of 141 delegates. Lawmakers pushing the issue in both chambers are counting votes and sound confident they can secure final passage.
But opponents, including the Maryland Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage, disagree and say the votes are not there on the floor. NOM, however, pledged to take the issue to the voters if it becomes law. If that happened, same-sex marriage could land on the 2012 ballot.