Maryland on Fast Track to Legalize Gay Marriage

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One week after Maryland's House of Delegates approved a gay marriage bill, the Senate followed suit, putting the state on track to become the eighth in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

"This is fantastic," said state Sen. Richard Madeleno, D-District 18, who is openly gay.

"Maryland was founded on the concept of toleration," he said. "And we were the original colony that said we welcome everyone to our colony, and we are just keeping on with that tradition 400 years later."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said he'll sign the bill, but opponents are already organizing a referendum vote in the fall to remove the legislation from the books. They need more than 55,000 signatures to put it on the November ballot.

"I think that's ultimately where this will be decided," Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin said.

"I think the people of Maryland will have that decision. No other state has approved this in referendum," he said.

"I think the issue is related to education," Pipkin said. "The issues related to religious freedom have not been resolved with this piece of legislation. I think the people will be very motivated to put it on the ballot and take it to a vote."

When it comes to the people voting, there's clear momentum on the side of traditional marriage.

In 2009, voters in Maine repealed their same-sex marriage law. And voters in 30 other states have approved constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage.

But Maryland Democrats say they'll take their case to the courts, even if the voters say no. The state attorney general spoke with activists at a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender fundraiser last fall and implied that the courts are on their side.

"The new lawyers, the new judges that Gov. O'Malley has appointed will ultimately decide this as they have in almost every state that's visited this issue, including California," Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said.

"So we will win," he predicted. "It's a lot of law, a lot of procedure, a lot of effort."

It may take several years before any final decision is made in Maryland. During the interim, the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the issue and decide for the nation remains viable.

Meanwhile, Maine election officials have just announced that same-sex marriage will be on the November ballot once again there. Gay activists say they're hoping for a yes vote this time after two years of outreach with voters.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.