The Maryland Senate has moved closer to passing a measure that legalizes gay marriage.
Senators voted 25-22 to advance a modified bill that includes more protections for religious institutions or groups that do not want to educate or provide insurance coverage to gay couples.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, tentatively scheduled a final vote for Thursday. Republican leader Nancy Jacobs said opponents lack the support needed to maintain a filibuster. Miller said his focus now moves to placing the measure before voters in 2012.
The bill will likely move to the House in the coming days. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he will sign the measure if passed. Passage would make Maryland the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.