Momentum Builds for Marriage in Maryland with Big Rally and More Senate Support

Hundreds of marriage supporters turned out for a Valentine's Day rally in front of Maryland's statehouse in Annapolis. Along with their message, they delivered carnations to lawmakers who are considering the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. The same day, two more Senators pledged to vote for the bill, brining the number of declared backers to 23 of the 24 needed for passage.

Elected officials, clergy, and families addressed the crowd. "As we celebrate Valentine's Day, no one can argue that the capacity and bond of love is any different between heterosexual and same-sex couples," said Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D). It is time that Maryland not stand in the way of love and commitment."

The event was organized by Equality Maryland, which has been working closely with Freedom to Marry staff to bring marriage to the state.

"Our nation began with multiple forms of exclusion and discrimination," said Attorney General Doug Gansler (D). "Dismantling this final barrier to full citizenship for gays and lesbians is a moral imperative and a logical historical inevitability. This equalization of the marriage right is long overdue."

One of the two Senators who added their support to the bill yesterday was Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, who said she had gone back and forth on the issue. "I think it's the fair thing to do," she said. The other was Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D).

The bill is expected to be passed in committee on Thursday, and could come up for a floor vote next week. Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D) said last week that if the bill had 23 votes and needed hers to pass, she would not let it fail – although yesterday she seemed to back off that statement, telling the Baltimore Sun that she is "still praying" on it and "probably close" to making a decision.

The bill has ample support in the House, and Governor Martin O'Malley has said he will sign it.

Also yesterday, another Maryland newspaper, The Daily Record, published an editorial supporting the marriage bill:

"The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness, and we feel that two human beings of the same sex who are deeply in love deserve the same right to happiness as heterosexual couples. We acknowledge the fears of some that permitting marriage equality will undermine the heterosexual family, but as more and more citizens are exposed to caring and deeply devoted homosexual couples living nearby, we have not heard any reports that heterosexual families living in the same neighborhoods have been damaged in any way." 

 Check out this video from the statehouse rally: