The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to start debates on marriage equality legislation (Senate Bill 116) as early as Wednesday, March 9, according to Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County).
“It will be probably be read across the desk Monday night, and Tuesday will probably be special order to give people time to work on amendments,” Mizeur told Metro Weekly on Friday, March 4, after Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee voted the bill “favorable” 12-10. [Vote summary]
Mizeur is one of 141 delegates in the House, which includes 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans, from 47 districts.
“We will have amendment debates on Wednesday. And because it’s a Senate bill that we’re working on, it can be amended on third reader too, so we might be dealing with amendments on Thursday as well. Then we will have final passage probably on Thursday, maybe Friday, definitely this week.”
Reacting to passage of the bill in committee, Mizeur said she was not surprised.
“We always knew it was going to,” she said. “We hit a couple of speed bumps along the way, but we always had confidence we were going to work through those and move on to the floor, where will have a bigger debate, and final passage to make Maryland the sixth state that recognizes the importance of equality for everybody.”
Those speed bumps included a change of heart from Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County), who was co-sponsor of the House version of bill, but ultimately voted against the legislation in committee, and the indecisiveness of Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), who during his campaign had told voters he would support marriage legislation for same-sex couples, but alluded to having changed his mind as the committee vote approached.
Ultimately, Arora voted in favor of the bill, and said he would do so on the House floor in hopes that voters in Maryland will finally decide on the matter.
Reacting to Arora’s vote, Mizeur said she would like to “focus on the positive.”
“We needed his vote,” she said, “and his constituents need him to stand up to his promises and he’s now come back around to doing that. We just need to move on.”
Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County), the lead sponsor of the marriage bill in the House, who confirmed to Metro Weekly last week that Arora had told him he was going to vote yes in committee and no on the floor, was also pleased by the vote.
“I am very happy to have his vote on this important matter,” Barve wrote in an e-mail message to Metro Weekly. “If indeed the bill is petitioned to referendum, I am confident the voters of Maryland will make history by affirming the new law in a plebiscite.”
Supporters of the bill were also pleased by the unexpected favorable vote of committee chair Del. Joseph Vallario (D-Prince George’s County), who before the committee vote had said he would vote against the measure.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said that he will sign the legislation into law if it passes through the Senate and the House. Opponents have said that they will seek a referendum for which a total of 55,736 signatures are required on the petition and must be submitted to Secretary of State John P. McDonough (D) by June 30. One third of those signatures are due on May 31.