ANNAPOLIS, Maryland -- Maryland could be the next state where gay marriage could pit the people against their very own lawmakers. The House of Delegates could decide as soon as this week to legalize same-sex marriage.
Maryland's Senate has already approved, and Gov. Martin O'Malley said he will sign the new law. However, the voters may repeal that law.
Opponents have said they will immediately begin the process of gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November 2012 and let the voters decide whether they want to approve gay marriage.
"If you vote to legalize same-sex marriage, this issue will be placed on the ballot and your decision will be overturned by the people," said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.
If the voters repeal what the Maryland legislature has passed, it won't be the first state where this has happened.
Maine voters did the same thing in 2009. After the state legislature legalized same-sex marriage, voters put it on the ballot and then repealed the gay marriage law.
So far, every state where same-sex marriage has been on the ballot, the people have turned it down.
"Thirty-one of 31 states, everywhere it's been put to a vote, marriage has been protected as the union of a man and a woman," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
"If Proposition 8 passed in California and the people of California stood up to protect marriage, or Maine, which are also blue states, I've no doubt that you'll see the same in Maryland," he added.
Before Maryland's House votes on the measure, it decided to have a open hearing where citizens by the dozens both for and against gay marriage could express their opinions. It was the last chance for people on both sides of the issue to testify and to put a human face on their feelings about gay marriage.
Many homosexuals -- delegates among them --pleaded for their unions to be recognized.
"And while it's love that makes a family, it is marriage that protects it," said Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery. "A state-sanctioned marriage license protects us when one of us is in the hospital or when we need health insurance or when we need to visit each other in a nursing home or make financial decisions for each other or make life and death decisions for each other."
Dr. Alvin Williams and Nigel Simon have been together 13 years and have adopted three children.
"We represent the families who this bill will impact," simon said. "It's more than just a debate for us. It means a solidification of our family, that we're not legal strangers in the eyes of the law."
However, those opposing gay marriage attacked on many fronts -- especially concerning children.
"And marriage is between one man, one woman, becoming one flesh, blessed of God, consummated to bring children into the world," said Rosaria Wolf, a Harford County resident. "That's what marriage is. It's holy ground. And we don't touch holy ground."
Powerful testimony came from two ex-gays who said homosexuals don't need gay marriage, because they don't even need to be gay.
"There are many clinical studies and individual reports of people who of their own free will have changed their sexual orientation, and I am not the only one," said Greg Quinlan, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. "This isn't 'Winnie the Pooh' and I'm not Tigger. There have been thousands of people like me who have left the homosexual lifestyle as an act of their will, as a right of self determination."
"Being set free from grip of the homosexual lifestyle was the equivalent of coming off of heroin," Falazarano explained. "But with God's help, I made it. After receiving help, I wanted to help others, and in the last 20 years I have ministered to over 600 men and women who have successfully left the homosexual lifestyle."
The Maryland legislature and Gov. O'Malley are likely to approve same-sex marriage. But the people of Maryland are also likely to have the final say on how marriage will be defined in the Old Line State.