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Md. House to vote on gay marriage bill

Friday - 2/17/2012, 5:59pm  ET

WTOP's Kate Ryan will be in Annapolis following the debate closely. Follow Kate on Twitter @KateRyanWTOP.

By SARAH BREITENBACH
Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Md. delegates are scheduled to take a final vote to legalize gay marriage.

Members of the House of Delegates considered a handful of amendments Friday afternoon and will convene for a final voting session at 4:30 p.m.

Republicans speculated that proponents acquired the 71-vote majority required to pass the legislation.

An amendment from Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Prince George's Democrat who previously opposed to the bill, was accepted by the members, a move opponents suggested bought her vote.

The body also added an amendment Thursday evening, altering the effective date of the bill from October to January 2013.

Delegate Wade Kach, a Republican from Baltimore County, said earlier in that day that his support of the bill was contingent the acceptance of that amendment.

Kach believes that change would provide more time to bring a referendum on the bill.

"I want the referendum," he said. "I want the people to have the opportunity to petition the bill to referendum because I think it's such an important decision for all Marylanders to make, not just the 188 legislators."

Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, accepted Kach's amendment on behalf of the committees that considered bill, even though they had previously rejected the plan.

"Some of it is, in an issue like this, making sure that everyone has a comfort level certainly makes sense," said Dumais, vice chairwoman of the judiciary committee.

Advocates for same-sex marriage have been working this week to collect the last couple votes need to reach the 71 required to pass the bill. Several lawmakers, including Kach, announced their support this week.

"I understand that they are still working some people, but we're still really positive," Dumais said. "Truly these are some really complicated issues."

Delegate John Olszewski, a Baltimore County Democrat considered to be a swing vote on gay marriage, said Thursday that while he favors legislation to create civil unions for gay couples, he would support the bill.

"While members of my church - and I am sure many communities - disagree over this issue, I simply cannot vote to deny other individuals access to the same legal rights and responsibilities that are given to me and my wife by the State," Olszewski said in a statement released Thursday.

Delegate Veronica Turner, D-Prince George's, who supported the bill in committee earlier this week, said she may even miss a final vote if it is taken Friday.

Turner, who is in the hospital and scheduled to have emergency surgery that day, will not be on the House floor.

She would not elaborate on her health Thursday afternoon, but said that her condition was "serious."

Minority leader Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert, maintains that gay marriage advocates do not have enough votes to pass the bill and suggests that is why the measure has been delayed for the second time this week.

"The votes apparently aren't there," he said. "The other side is trying to gain the votes, so they needed another day's delay so they could continue to meet and work on people."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)