What’s next for gay marriage in Maryland?

A bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland was pushed through a key committee and on to the Senate floor Thursday. Although this is the most hotly debated social issue of the session, leaders from both parties predicted passage.

The bill will go to the full Senate for debate sometime early next week. The Senate Republicans have enough votes to filibuster the bill, but a recent change in rules will most likely allow the supporters of the bill to vote for cloture, close the filibuster and pass the bill.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will move to the House of Delegates, where support for the bill is even stronger and the Republicans will have no filibuster option. However, if the bill is amended in any way, it will be pushed back to the Senate and will require the full procedural process again. If the same Senate version of the bill passes the house, Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has promised to sign the bill.

After the bill becomes law, marriage-equality opponents have the option of bringing the law to a state-wide vote. Opponents of the bill would have to get a petition signed by 55,736 registered voters. The petition must deliver 18,579 signatures by June 1 and the remainder of the signatures 30 days later. If the petition is completed the citizens of Maryland would vote on the referendum in November. And while it is unclear whether the bill would be repealed, the latest polling data from The Baltimore Sun indicates a majority support for marriage equality.

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