MD Flag SmallThe fight for marriage equality in Maryland took a giant step forward tonight as the State Senate voted to approve a bill that extends legal marriage to same-sex couples.  The  legislation now heads to the House of Delegates for debate.  If it wins approval in the lower chamber, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to sign the bill into law.

The bill’s openly gay co-author, Sen. Rich Madaleno, was a leading force in persuading his colleagues to support the measure.  Madaleno told Gay Politics last year that an increase in the number of openly gay and lesbian state legislators would have an impact on their straight colleagues.  ”Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion.  The tenor of the conversation changes.  It humanizes it,” Madaleno said.

Maryland has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers, six of whom serve in the House of Delegates.