Holdouts ready to vote on same-sex marriage

Two delegates had held up key House committee vote

March 02, 2011|By Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun

A day after skipping a committee vote on same-sex marriage, two delegates said Wednesday that they are prepared to register their positions on the issue. But the House Judiciary Committee had no immediate plans to schedule a new vote.

Dels. Jill Carter and Tiffany Alston — two sponsors of the House bill — threw a wrench into what was to have been a majority vote on the committee to send the divisive issue to the full House of Delegates. The civil marriage proposal won Senate approval last week.

The two are critical votes: The marriage bill needs 12 votes to clear the committee, and exactly 12 delegates have signaled their support by co-sponsoring the legislation. If they approve the legislation, it would go to the entire 141-member chamber, where House leaders were anticipating a rocky floor debate.

As of Wednesday night, the committee leaders had announced no plan to take a vote. The committee typically holds a voting session each Thursday.

Carter, a Baltimore Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, said Tuesday that she was withholding her vote to draw attention to reductions in city education funding and to her own bill on child custody in divorce cases.

On Wednesday afternoon, Carter told WBAL-TV that she is "absolutely" now ready to vote on the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

"There were some things I wanted to have discussed first," she said. Carter said same-sex marriage "was getting all of the attention," and she was trying to get Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch "to hear me out."

Alston, a Prince George's County Democrat, said Tuesday that she needed more time to think about the proposal, citing in part the conflict between her personal support of same-sex marriage and her church's opposition to it.

Just before 2 a.m. Wednesday, she sent a statement saying she will be ready to cast her vote when the chairman calls for it.

"From the beginning of my campaign I have told the people that elected me that I personally supported the same sex-couple's right to marry," Alston said. "I believe all people should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation. ... I have resolved that if and when the chairman calls the vote I will be ready to vote based on what I believe to be right."

Committee colleagues said late Wednesday that Alston had not committed to voting for same-sex marriage.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

twitter.com/bykowicz

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