ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland Republican lawmaker considered to be a swing vote in the House of Delegates gay marriage debate will not support the legislation.
Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-Frederick, said Wednesday that he will not support the marriage bill.
“While I do believe that the law should afford the same protections to all couples in Maryland, I do not believe we need to use the word marriage to do that,” Hogan said in a statement.
Earlier Wednesday, supporters decided to layover the bill in the House, delaying floor debate until Thursday.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday that he was still looking for “a couple” of votes in the House and that Republican support could be critical to passing the measure.
Republican Delegate Robert Costa, voted to move the bill from his committee earlier this week. Proponents had hoped Hogan would make a similar decision on the floor.
Several committee Democrats opposed the bill, while Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, abstained from casting any vote. Arora said he supports civil unions for gay couples, which marriage advocates say creates a state of “separate but equal.”
“I really hope that we can get to a place that we can pass a bill that’s going to provide equality this year and I think the best way to do that is a civil unions bill,” he said.
Arora would not speculate whether he would vote for gay marriage if an attempt to amend the bill to offer civil unions fails on the floor.
“I don’t get into hypotheticals on this,” he said. “I’m hoping that we do see a civil unions bill.”
Last year Arora, a freshman delegate, waffled on support of gay marriage, ultimately voting for the bill in committee in order to move it to the floor. That bill later died when House leaders realized they did not have enough votes to pass the measure.
Other opponents say they worry the bill will force educators to teach about gay marriage in public schools and threaten religious freedoms for people who provide services for weddings.
If the House and state Senate sign off on the bill, Maryland could become the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)