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BREAKING NEWS: Maryland House approves marriage equality, bill goes to state Senate

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday voted 72-67 to approve a bill that legalizes marriage equality.

Opponents fail to tack on all but one amendment, including an attempt to change language in the bill from "marriage" to "civil unions."

The one amendment that did pass says that marriage equality will not begin until all legal challenges are exhausted. Supporters of that amendment said they did not want Maryland gay and lesbian couples to be put in the California Proposition 8 situation where some couples legally married before voters took away marriage equality, and then other gay and lesbian couples could no longer marry.

The bill next goes to the Senate for debate and a vote. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, proposed this bill and has pledged to sign it into law if approved.

Opponents of marriage equality are expected to launch a referendum effort should the bill pass and be signed into law.

Last year, the marriage-equality bill was pulled by the House due to a lack of votes after the Senate approved the measure. It is expected that the Senate will again pass the bill.

“We could not be more grateful to the Delegates who today voted to make all Maryland families stronger,” said Joe Solmonese, outgoing president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today, we took a giant step toward marriage equality becoming law – and we are in this position due to the unwavering leadership and resolve of Governor O’Malley, Speaker Busch and our legislative allies.”

Update on marriage equality

On Monday, Washington became the seventh state to legalize marriage equality, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia. But opponents of marriage equality in Washington state are trying to qualify a referendum for the November ballot.

On Thursday, New Jersey approved marriage equality, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill this afternoon (Feb. 17). The legislature has about a year to try to overturn the governor's veto.