Called the Civil Marriage Protection Act, the bill places a heavier emphasis on protecting religious freedom than a bill that failed last year by protecting religious leaders, not just religious groups, from having to perform marriages that violate their beliefs, said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O'Malley.
"This bill is about fairness. It's about striking that balance between religious freedom and the freedom to marry the person and raise a family that you choose, and the governor has been and will continue to work hard to ensure passage," Guillory said.
The Republican caucus has taken a formal position "in support of maintaining the current definition of marriage in Maryland state law," said House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert/St. Mary's.
The new protections for religious freedom have not persuaded opponents to support the bill, which O'Malley introduced Monday night.
"Their protection means absolutely nothing," said Del. Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County. "We determine what our religious freedoms are ourselves. We don't need the legislature."
Burns and other opponents are hosting a rally Monday night in Annapolis. They have organized a letter-writing campaign and plan to attend every public hearing on the high-profile issue, Burns said.
Constituents are telling their lawmakers to vote against the bill, said Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, who opposes the legislation. "We're working with everybody to try and get it to be stopped."
Burns plans to contact all the black delegates in Baltimore County and warn them, "Black delegates would not be permitted to come to our churches on Sunday ... when they come down here to Annapolis and vote against what we stand for," he said.
If the bill were to pass, it probably would be petitioned to a referendum, O'Donnell said.
But supporters of the bill are organized, too, Guillory said.
"We've always been organized, and we're going to continue to build on the momentum on the organizational coalitions that were made last year," said Del. Susan Lee, D-Montgomery County, a proponent of the bill.