A joint panel of the Maryland legislature approved on Valentines’s Day a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, adding to national momentum for gay nuptials following advances in California, New Jersey and Washington state over the last week. Committee approval of Governor Martin O’Malley’s bill on Tuesday moves Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize gay marriage. The House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee approved the measure 25-18 in a joint vote, a judiciary panel spokeswoman said. The measure is expected to go to the full House on Wednesday, she said. A similar bill died in the House last year following opposition from several African-American lawmakers. O’Malley, a Democrat, said he had rallied support for the measure and needed only a handful of extra votes to secure passage this year. The Maryland Senate, which passed the bill last year, was expected to consider the measure as early as Friday, said Senator Brian Frosh, head of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Maryland vote came one day after Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, although the law will not take affect until June at the earliest. The law may also face a ballot initiative in November sought by opponents. New Jersey’s Senate also approved a gay marriage bill on Monday, with the lower house expected to vote on Thursday. Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, has promised to veto the measure.
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