Busch said about 10 delegates did not feel ready to cast a vote Friday and wanted more time to learn what the bill would do. He spoke of passing legislation as "a distance run, not a sprint."
Del. John A. Olszewski Jr., who had pushed for additional safeguards, said Friday evening that he believes the House can find a way to "extend marriage rights to all, but with meaningful religious protections."
An amendment that he said would do that was rejected Friday on a voice vote, as was an attempt to convert the bill into a civil-unions plan.
The Baltimore County Democrat said he would continue talking with his constituents and sorting through the issue. If he'd been asked to vote Friday on gay marriage, he said, he probably would have voted against it.
During the final hours of debate Friday, several openly gay lawmakers made personal appeals to their colleagues, while some religious lawmakers said they could turn away from their deeply held beliefs.
House Republicans, who took a position as a caucus against the bill, stayed mostly in their seats Friday as socially conservative Democrats delivered most of the opposition remarks.
Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., the Anne Arundel County Republican who has called himself "the face of the opposition" to gay marriage, said the decision was "strategic."
"You can win a battle without ever saying a word," Dwyer said.
Del. Steve Schuh said many of the lawmakers who had planned to vote no - like himself - are not against gay people but do not want to expand the state's definition of marriage.
The Anne Arundel Republican said marriage is subsidized by the state to ensure procreation.
Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. delivered the day's longest speech, blasting same-sex marriage supporters for calling the issue one of civil rights.
"Those who want to ride on our coattails are historically incorrect," said Burns, an African-American Democrat from Baltimore County. He said gay people had not endured the struggles of blacks, had not had crosses burned on their lawns or been thrown in a police wagon.
The House fell silent as Del. Heather Mizeur, who is Catholic and openly gay, told her story. The Montgomery County Democrat described herself as an old soul who knew at a young age that she was gay and also deeply spiritual. She said she also knew she wanted to be an elected official. She concluded by telling her colleagues she loved them.
At one point, Del. Peter F. Murphy rose to add himself to the list of openly gay delegates. The Charles County Democrat said later that he has never hidden his sexuality, but spoke to his colleagues "to make sure there was no misunderstanding."
"When you put a face on an issue and people share their stories," he said, "I can't imagine there weren't people on the floor who didn't come away with the perspective of how important it is to treat everyone equally. In that way, what happened today was not a total loss."
Audience members, too, had their own debates.
Ethan Taylor, who is raising a 3-year-old daughter with his partner, shot a baleful look at Elizabeth Wetzel, a Mormon wearing a sticker displaying a stick-figure family of a man, woman and child, while they watched the House action in the gallery.
After it ended, Wetzel approached him and said, "I wanted you to know this has been a struggle for me."