(Co-authored by Peter Smith)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, March 11, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A bill to legalize same-sex “marriage” failed Friday to win enough support for passage from the Maryland House of Delegates.

Critics and supporters of the measure both had waged a heated battle for the votes of lawmakers on the fence. However, the House decided today in a voice vote to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, signaling that the measure had not yet garnered sufficient support for passage.

Two weeks ago, the state Senate approved the bill 25 to 21, and Governor Martin O’Malley had promised to sign it if approved by the House.

Same-sex “marriage” supporters had expected that the new supermajority of Democrats in the House would smooth the way for the bill’s passage. However a coalition of pro-family Democrats and Republicans has thus far stood in their way.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, praised the “brave Maryland delegates who defied the arm-twisting and political pressures” to pass same-sex “marriage” and gave special accolades to pro-family Democrats.

“We pledge to be there over the long haul to help all pro-marriage Democrats, many of whom have been subject to reprehensible attacks for standing up for marriage,” said Brown. “This victory comes from the people of Maryland whose quiet, under-reported, but extraordinary outpouring of opposition to redefining marriage is the reason for this victory.”

NOM’s chairman, Maggie Gallagher, stated that black Democrats had listened to their constituents and rallied to defend marriage, but received enormous abuse from other sectors of their party.

“Delegate Emmett Burns told the press he was called the N-word for failing to vote the way white urban liberals wanted him to vote. The courage of these Democrats is extraordinary and very inspiring to those of us in the forefront of the battle to protect marriage,” said Gallagher.

Peter Sprigg, FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, noted that the black community in Maryland was key in creating the “groundswell of opposition” to the bill.

“Particular thanks must go to the African-American pastors, church members, and delegates who spoke out against the attempted hijacking of the concept of ‘civil rights.’”

NOM announced earlier in the week that it was forming a state political action committee, NOM PAC Maryland, and would dedicate $1 million to support the campaigns of Democrat state lawmakers who voted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, and oppose any Republican lawmakers who supported the same-sex “marriage” bill.

The bill needed 71 votes to make same-sex “marriage” legal in Maryland. Although the decision to send the legislation back to committee effectively kills it for the year, there is the potential for proponents to revive the bill before the legislature ends its session in April.

Sprigg said FRC was urging the House Judiciary Committee “to take no further action on this divisive bill, and instead to allow the General Assembly to turn its attention to the economic and fiscal needs of Maryland.”