The Maryland House of Delegates [official website] on Friday failed to approve a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the state. The Maryland Senate [official website] voted 25-21 to approve [JURIST report] the Civil Marriage Protection Act [materials] last month and sent it to the lower house for a final vote. The failure to approve the bill makes it unlikely that the legislation will be approved before the next session, scheduled for 2012. The bill was withdrawn from the House [AP report] before the planned vote. The bill would have needed an affirmative vote from the House of Delegates and to be signed by the governor before becoming law. In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, the bill would have allowed a religious institution to refuse services, accommodations or solemnization of a marriage that would violate constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) [official website] opposed the decision not to pass the bill [press release]:
It is my firm belief that equality under the law means equality for everyone, and our laws should reflect that fundamental principle. Together, we've worked hard to protect and expand these rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens in our state. It was my hope to sign a marriage equality act consistent with these progressive reforms, while protecting religious freedom in our state.Equality Maryland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland [press releases] expressed disappointment at the bill's failure. The National Organization for Marriage [press release] praised the actions of the Maryland delegates.
In February 2010, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler [official website] declared that the state would recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere [JURIST report]. Had the bill succeeded, Maryland would have become the seventh US jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and DC [JURIST reports].