Kate Ryan, wtop.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley testified in favor of same sex marriage at a hearing in Annapolis on Tuesday.
"It's not right, and it is not just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state," O'Malley told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
O'Malley sponsored the legislation granting marriage equality to gay couples.
But, in a clear effort to allay the fears and concerns of the religious community, he added, "Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own beliefs and their own teachings."
O'Malley and his wife, Katie O'Malley, spent part of the weekend backtracking from her recent comments calling some of the lawmakers "cowards" who failed to support same sex marriage vote last year.
Her comment wasn't forgotten by the Rev. Robert J. Borger, with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, who referred to it when he said, "A coward runs from a fight. We will not run from this fight."
The O'Malley administration cites bipartisan support for the bill, and Republican Alan Kittleman, a senator whose district includes parts of Howard and Carroll counties, said he was reminded of his father who fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.
"It changed me -- it changed me for life," Kittleman says.
He continued, saying he believes the fight for same sex marriage is similar, "because I really do believe it's about freedom. I believe it's about liberty, it's about equality."
The Rev. John Lunn, of the Berean Baptist Church in Baltimore, took issue with that.
"It is not a civil rights issue. I did not choose the color I was born, but I can choose my sexual preference," he said, to which several people in the packed hearing room declared, "Amen."
One man told the Senate panel he and the woman he wants to marry will delay their wedding until gay marriage is allowed in Maryland, to which Sen. Jamin Raskin replied, "Are you saying that if gay marriage is allowed in Maryland there will be more straight marriages?"
Senate President Mike Miller has said he wants a vote on the issue sooner than later in the session. It's possible the Senate panel could vote on SB 241 by next week, and a vote in the full chamber could follow a week later.
It's not clear how the bill will fare in the House, where it was pulled from the floor at the very last minute when it was clear the support was collapsing.
Katie O'Malley's recent comments made for some backtracking this weekend -- she issued an immediate apology --and one House lawmaker told WTOP while her comments didn't help, they wouldn't necessarily sink the bill either.
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