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Under Pressure, Arora Will Now Vote For Marriage Equality -- Maryland Vote Still Up In The Air

March 04, 2011 11:20 am ET by Equality Matters staff

Del. Sam Arora faced significant criticism yesterday after privately disclosing he was planning to vote against the Maryland marriage equality bill he co-sponsored. However, after a firestorm on the internet -- and after donor Karl Frisch demanded his campaign donation back - Arora has now apparently decided to vote in favor of the bill. And while good news for the bill, Arora announced today that is only voting for the bill in order to pave the way for a public referendum over gay marriage. From his personal website:

As the vote drew nearer, I wrestled with this issue in a way I never had before, which led me to realize that I had some concerns about the bill. While I personally believe that Maryland should extend civil rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, I have come to the conclusion that this issue has such impact on the people of Maryland that they should have a direct say. I will vote to send the bill to the floor because it deserves an up-or-down vote. On the floor, I will vote to send the bill to the governor so that Marylanders can ultimately decide this issue at the polls. I think that is appropriate.

To be clear, this position is still an obvious reversal from the position he took while campaigning for office. He signed an Equality Maryland questionnaire signaling his support for marriage equality and is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill.  And his decision to support a public referendum on the bill is highly problematic. Civil rights should not be a matter for debate in Maryland.

Karl Frisch recently responded to Arora's announcement, in a statement to Equality Matters:

"I'm relieved that Sam has decided to do the right thing. Make no mistake, if he in any way supports or lends his name to a referendum allowing Marylanders to vote on the civil rights and marriage equality of their LGBT neighbors we will be there to challenge him and elect a progressive in his place. Friends don't let friends align themselves with hate groups and bigots." [disclosure: Karl worked for Media Matters from September 2006 to January 2011]

Still, Arora's announcement gives some hope to those worried about the HB 175's prospects on the House floor; it is still several votes short of the 71 needed for passage. House Speaker Michael Busch remains optimistic about the bill's prospects, saying "I think the vote is close both in the committee and in the House. I think the votes would be there to pass the bill."

A committee vote on the bill is expected to come later today, but another major delay would not be totally unexpected. The committee process has already been marred by walk-outs and foot-dragging.

The fight is far from over. Marylanders call your delegates and demand they stand in support of the marriage equality bill.

Previously:

Republicans, Hate Group Desperately Working To Derail Marriage Equality In Maryland

Another Maryland Delegate Shows Weakness On Marriage Equality Bill

Maryland Marriage Equality Bill On Life Support