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In Maryland, House passes bill to allow gay marriage

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House narrowly passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage on Friday, delivering a major victory to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, who had proposed it. But its implementation remained uncertain as its opponents promised to take it to voters in November.

The bill, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act, squeaked by in a 71-67 vote, drawing loud applause and cheers from proponents in the House. A similar bill had failed in the chamber last year.

The measure still faces a vote in the Senate, where it is expected to pass, before O'Malley can sign it into law. But opponents have pledged to put in on the ballot for a vote on Nov. 6, a prospect that the bill's supporters acknowledge is practically a foregone conclusion.

The vote, said Anthony O'Donnell, the Republican minority leader, amounted to "beginning a process, not ending a process. The citizens of Maryland will have the final say."

"I'm overwhelmed," said Luke Clippinger, one of the seven openly gay members of the Maryland House. "My voice is still breaking."

After the vote, lawmakers who voted for the bill — mostly Democrats — gathered outside the chamber cheering and hugging one another. Soon after, O'Malley arrived to congratulate the delegates. He embraced Clippinger.

The bill's passage would make Maryland the eighth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The House passage comes a day after New Jersey's legislature passed a similar bill, though it was vetoed on Friday by Gov. Chris Christie.

Equal benefits for gays in military

The Obama administration on Friday said it would not defend the constitutionality of statutes blocking same-sex military spouses from receiving marriage benefits — including visitation in military hospitals, survivor benefits and burials in military cemeteries. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department agreed with plaintiffs in a Massachusetts suit that such laws are unconstitutional.

In Maryland, House passes bill to allow gay marriage 02/17/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012 11:35pm]

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