ANNAPOLIS — A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland advanced another step Wednesday after two Washington County delegates' attempts to amend it failed.
The House of Delegates is scheduled to take a final vote Friday.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said he expects the vote to be close.
The bill came before the House on Wednesday for preliminary approval, and a chance for delegates to propose amendments.
In his amendment, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, tried to shield religious-based groups that provide adoption, foster care or social services and might be opposed to same-sex marriage.
Opponents said the proposal would be discriminatory.
It was defeated 79-58.
Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, proposed changing the name of the bill from the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the Same-Sex Marriage bill to clarify the bill's purpose.
Since the bill is about marriage, "I think the title should be clear," he said.
"I don't think anyone in Maryland doesn't know what this is about," Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery, countered.
The measure failed 85-52.
Supporters are trying to keep the bill unchanged in the House, so it will match the version the Senate passed 25-21 last month.
Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign a same-sex marriage bill.
Maryland would join five other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing same-sex marriage.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 12-10 Friday, setting the stage for a debate on the House floor.
Donoghue proposed his amendment on Tuesday, then asked that the bill be held for a day to let other delegates review it.
When his amendment was debated on Wednesday, Donoghue and the four other delegates representing Washington County — Serafini, Michael J. Hough, LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Neil C. Parrott, all Republicans — voted in favor.
Serafini's amendment was one of three others that were offered.
All five Washington County delegates voted in favor of it.
All five delegates, plus two senators representing Washington County, oppose same-sex marriage. Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, is the only delegation member who supports the bill.
Another attempted amendment on Wednesday would have let parents and teachers opt out of school lessons on same-sex marriage.
The final amendment would have steered the issue toward a possible statewide referendum. It failed by eight votes.
Opponents have said they will collect petitions to make same-sex marriage a ballot issue in 2012.