Senate president preparing for gay marriage debate
With supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage flocking to Annapolis for today's Senate committee hearing, the chamber leader said he is preparing for a robust debate among all 47 senators as soon as next week.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller opposes gay marriage and civil unions, but the Southern Maryland Democrat said today that "it's a generational issue." He assessed the legislation's chance of passing the full Senate as better than 50-50.
Miller today renewed his promise to help prevent the legislation from becoming mired in an endless floor debate. If the sponsors can collect their 24 votes, Miller said, he will find the 29 votes needed to cut off a filibuster.
The bill, which its 18 Senate sponsors call the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, is expected to be approved by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. That panel will vote in the next few days, after listening to testimony from gay couples, religious leaders and countless other citizens at a lengthy hearing this afternoon.
Equality Maryland brought dozens of members to the State House for a press conference at 11:30 a.m. (Pictured. Credit: Annie Linskey) Many will then squeeze into what is sure to be a crowded Senate committee room for the 1 p.m. hearing.
Notable at the press conference: Sen. Allan Kittleman, the only Republican senator to back same-sex marriage.
The fate of the bill in the full chamber appears to be in the hands of the six senators who have not taken a public position. Only after Senate approval would the House of Delegates begin considering the measure.
Miller said he advised senators who might feel torn about how to vote to "just keep smiling," since the legislation involves families and religion. "You can't question how anybody votes on this issue."