Gov. Parris N. Glendening is in the trying position of seeing his gay rights bill, inspired by the memory of a brother who died of AIDS, stuck in a state Senate committee with its fate controlled by a few undecided lawmakers.
Glendening believes there are enough votes in the full House and Senate to pass the measure, which would add homosexuals to the list of groups protected by state law banning discrimination in housing and on the job.
But first, he must get the bill through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, whose members for the most part resisted his fervent, personal appeals two years ago and let a similar rights measure die without a vote.
It is an exasperating predicament for Glendening and the bill's supporters, believing as they do that most Marylanders have come to view the issue as a matter of fairness.
A Glendening-created panel spent several months last year hearing stories of bias against gays and lesbians - people who said, for example, that they had been taunted, denied housing or fired from their jobs. The governor is quick to cite a recent poll conducted for The Sun showing that 60 percent of the state's voters favor banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But among Glendening's aides and legislative allies, concern is expressed frequently that not enough has changed in the place that matters most - the Judicial Proceedings hearing room.
During the 1999 battle, as today, some committee members were uncomfortable at the prospect of affording homosexuals the same protection from discrimination afforded women, racial minorities and members of religious groups; others loudly derided the bill.
"How much do you think your child would learn if he or she were being taught by a man dressed as a woman?" began a written statement of opposition by Republican Sen. Alex X. Mooney of Frederick.
The bill's supporters countered that the measure would not affect school dress codes.
At the heart of the debate were positions that do not easily lend themselves to compromise.
The measure's supporters said it was necessary to provide overdue protections to people who now have no legal recourse against discrimination; opponents said the legislation would foster mainstream acceptance of behavior they do not condone.
Two years later, Glendening remembers the committee fight well, and he is girding for another one.
Without identifying anyone by name, Glendening said, "There are a few people on that committee, I believe, who are motivated by their own personal insecurities [or] by pure political ambition.
"I know we have the votes on the floor of the Senate if we ever get it out there."
The bill's advocates and foes agree that Mooney and three other committee Republicans are likely to oppose the measure; four Democrats are expected to support it.
That leaves three Democrats as swing votes: Chairman Walter M. Baker, 73, a Cecil County lawyer; Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, 53, an insurance agent from Anne Arundel County; and Sen. Leo E. Green, 68, a lawyer from Prince George's County.
Jimeno says he almost certainly will vote against the bill. Green says he is undecided, and Baker says he hasn't read it yet.
In lobbying for the bill, Glendening has not been shy about invoking the memory of his late brother Bruce, who was gay. He died of AIDS in 1988 after a 19-year Air Force career.
One Judicial Proceedings member recalled being distinctly uncomfortable two years ago when Glendening described how his brother had to live "a lie" because he could not disclose his sexual orientation for fear of being discharged.
"I continue to think about my brother and his service, and I continue to think about how difficult it was when he died," Glendening said this week. "I felt prior to that, that it was wrong to have this discrimination.
But since then, it has become very personal, as well as the right thing to do in terms of policy."
The governor will soon begin meeting personally with committee members. If he is unable to prod the panel into approving the bill, he said, he'll consider trying to guarantee some rights for gays and lesbians by issuing an executive order. His legislative aides are studying how far such a tool could go.
Governors' executive orders normally affect only state employees. But it is possible, according to some legal experts, that Glendening could achieve at least a portion of his intent by requiring private entities to certify non-discrimination as a condition of receiving state aid.
The bill's supporters have also discussed whether key elements of the legislation could be attained in maneuvering on the Senate floor.
"The big issue with this bill is can it get out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat. "If not, the issue is whether there is other legislation out there to which it could be added as an amendment."