Maryland senate panel voted in favor of same-sex marriage

Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland passed a major hurdle Tuesday when a key Senate panel voted in favor of gay marriage.

With a vote of 7 to 4, a Maryland Senate Committee moved same-sex marriage legislation one step closer to becoming law.

"All of the momentum with this legislation is on the side of the proponents," said Jamin B. Raskin, D-Montgomery County. "Public opinion is changing rapidly in favor of equal rights for all."

But some lawmakers and clergy oppose the bill, saying it does not adequately protect religious liberties.

"We're talking synagogues, churches, various groups of all faiths don't feel it goes far enough to protect them," said Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil/Hartford Counties.

The Maryland same-sex marriage bill is expected to reach the floor of the State Senate sometime later this week. In the meantime, opponents vow to continue their fight through amendments and possibly a statewide referendum.

"If you feel strongly about something, you don't give up," Jacobs said.

Just last week, the House of Delegates narrowly passed the bill.

Now, activists on both sides are vowing to target certain lawmakers who voted against them.

Montgomery County Democrat Sam Arora seems to be getting the brunt of the backlash. Arora, who campaigned in 2010 in support of same sex marriage and co-sponsored last years bill, voted No this year, even after repeatedly being lobbied by Gov. Martin O'Malley and former President Bill Clinton.

Because of that vote, Arora's legislative director immediately resigned and the delegate's Facebook wall has been peppered with dozens of angry messages, calling Arora a coward and his vote a betrayal.

There's even an online petition demanding Arora resign or refund campaign dollars. So far it has a couple hundred signatures, many from out-of-state residents.

Despite repeated requests for an on-camera interview, Arora said he was too busy but he did respond via email:

"This has been an emotional debate and I understand that there re those who disagree with my vote. Now that the bill has passed, I've turned my focus to my efforts [on other issues] in Maryland."

But former Arora supporters don't seem ready to turn their focus away and are promising to end the delegate's political career because of his vote.