Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) this evening announced his 2012 legislative agenda, which includes support for same-sex marriage, continuing a commitment he made in July 2011.
According to Raquel Guillory, O'Malley's communications director, the governor will be introducing a bill tomorrow, Jan. 24, to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The move sets off what supporters of the measure expect to be a hard-fought campaign to put marriage equality into law, followed by a likely referendum fight.
''This session, our legislative agenda will help us create jobs for Maryland families, protect the quality of life for all Marylanders, and continue our push for a more sustainable future,'' O'Malley said in a release announcing the agenda, which includes a wide range of items.
Shortly after releasing the agenda, at 7:56 p.m., the O'Malley also tweeted, ''This #MDSession12 we will be sponsoring the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012.''
The General Assembly is in the midst of its 90-day legislative session, and supporters of marriage equality have a limited time to pass the bill. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George's counties) has said in multiple interviews that he plans to bring the measure up early in the legislative session, where it is expected to pass with 25 votes.
In 2011, the Senate passed a marriage equality bill by a vote of 25-21, with Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George's Co.) absent when the vote was taken. Benson, however, made her opposition to the marriage-equality bill known afterward. The measure went to the House of Delegates, where it narrowly passed out of committee, but was sent back to committee when legislators realized they did not have the votes to pass it.
Dels. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.) and Keiffer Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore City) told supporters of marriage equality at a Jan. 19 town hall meeting in Silver Spring that they were hopeful that O'Malley's strong and public show of support would encourage some of their fellow legislators to support the bill.
Last year, Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Carroll, Howard counties) was the only Republican to vote for the bill in the upper chamber, and no Republicans expressed support for the measure in the House.
Opponents of marriage equality, who last year successfully lobbied legislators to oppose the bill, have vowed to make a strong show in Annapolis. Already, groups such as the Maryland Catholic Conference and several Maryland churches have begun circulating fliers for a rally opposing same-sex marriage, sponsored by the Maryland Marriage Alliance, in Annapolis Jan. 30.
At the town hall, Mizeur said proponents of the legislation were planning a meeting, featuring a panel of religious leaders who support marriage equality. She encouraged Maryland residents who support the cause to travel to Annapolis on Jan. 30 and at other times when the bill is being debated or voted upon in committee, as a way to encourage LGBT-supportive lawmakers to stand strong.
Ahead of O'Malley's announcement, Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery Co.) told Metro Weekly he believed O'Malley's support would be crucial in passing the bill, especially since much of last year's opposition came from socially conservative Democrats in Baltimore County and Prince George's County.
''The governor of Maryland is extraordinarily powerful, according to the state Constitution, and is given broad powers,'' Madaleno said of O'Malley and his ability to influence legislators to deliver the needed votes. ''This governor has a pretty good batting average.''