Maryland House Passes Gay Marriage Bill USAToday | 02/17/2012 Excerpts: ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Maryland appears ready to become one of a handful of states in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage after the bill to allow it passed a long-standing hurdle in the Maryland House of Delegates on Friday. After courting the votes of a couple delegates initially opposed to the measure, House members voted 72-67 to pass the bill. An initial vote count suggested the measure passed with 71 votes, leaving out an affirmative from Delegate John Bohanan. Next up is the Senate, which handily passed a similar bill last year. Gov. Martin O'Malley sponsored the bill and has pushed for gay marriage to be legalized. Approval would make Maryland the eighth state plus the District of Columbia to legalize the marriages, although opponents have vowed to petition the measure to referendum. "Today, we took a giant step toward marriage equality becoming law - and we are in this position due to the unwavering leadership and resolve of Governor O'Malley, Speaker (Michael) Busch and our legislative allies," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement released Friday. Throughout the week, several key lawmakers, including Kach and Republican Delegate Robert Costa, made pronouncements that after personal consideration they would support the legislation. Opponents say the bill does not adequately protect religious freedoms and would force educators to teach about gay marriage in public schools. Delegates rejected amendments to create civil unions, allow parents to opt out of education programs that address same-sex relationships, limit marriage for gay couples over 18 and to put the measure directly on the ballot. Opponents argued that Democrats rushed the measure through without proper consideration of amendments once they knew there would be enough votes. Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-02-17/maryland-house-gay-marriage-vote/53135776/1 It is unbelievable that it takes years of court fighting, with some states voting for, and some state voting against gay marriage, when it is their right to be married anyway. Why do people who may have a sexual preference other than the standard man, woman thingy need to have special legislation for what is given freely for the man, woman arrangement? A marriage should be a right for everybody, and taking it away from some because of sexual preferences or personal beliefs is unconstitutional and should be rectified by our central government and the United States Supreme Court if necessary.