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Both Sides Gear Up for Same-Sex Marriage Fight

Maryland voters will see same-sex marriage on the ballot in November.

By CAITLIN JOHNSTON
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS -- Gay rights activists, religious leaders and politicians are gearing up for two months of campaigning on the Maryland referendum to strike down same-sex marriage legislation that passed in March.

Hot off the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, volunteers will be staffing nightly phone banks, canvassing door-to-door and finding ways to make same-sex marriage a personal issue for voters.

"This is not something that's esoteric or theological," said Maryland Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, who supports same-sex marriage. "These are real people who are living in our state that are unable to receive the benefit that others have simply because of their sexual orientation."

Maryland became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage when Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act in March. But the act takes effect in January, allowing opponents to petition it to a referendum.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage gathered more than 113,000 signatures for a petition to put the issue on this fall's ballot.

Both sides are concerned about the language on the ballot. The wording can be confusing for voters, said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Voting "for" the same-sex marriage referendum is a vote in favor of the current law and will allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license.
Glenn said she will hold town hall meetings explaining the language of the referendum and providing speakers from both viewpoints.

"The more questions we can answer, the easier it is for people to come to a better understanding of what they believe," Glenn said.

Glenn and Kittleman are in some ways exceptions, as neither has taken the stance traditionally associated with their party. January 2012 polling data by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies found 62 percent of Democrats supported same-sex marriage and 76 percent of Republicans opposed it.

Glenn's opposition does mirror that of many others in the black community who are more likely than whites to oppose same-sex marriage.

Proponents of same-sex marriage call it a civil rights issue that comes down to equal treatment for all. Detractors counter that it's about protecting the sanctity of marriage. Those same rights, they say, could be found through alternate paths such as civil unions.

Maryland Marriage Alliance, a non-partisan interfaith coalition dedicated to preserving the traditional definition of marriage, has an office in Annapolis and will open others throughout the state to facilitate volunteer training, workers and phone banks.

If the referendum fails, Maryland would be the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to legalize same-sex marriage, and potentially the only state where same-sex marriage survived a vote at the ballot box. Each of these mile markers is significant on its own, said Kevin Nix, spokesman for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

"The fact that Maryland could be first would be monumental," Nix said. "It would just be another sign that the country is moving toward equality and fairness, not away from it."

Maryland is one of the first states, alongside Maine and Washington, to put the issue on the ballot after President Barack Obama announced his support of marriage equality last spring. His remarks, and resulting support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have emboldened both sides.

"The president coming out in May and supporting marriage for gay and lesbian couples combined with NAACP's endorsement both go a long way toward getting the conversation really going in all kinds of communities, including the African-American community," Nix said. "I think that dynamic plus actually having a successful vote on the ground in a state, again, will contribute heavily to the momentum we already have nationally."

The Democratic Party added support of same sex marriage to its platform at the convention in Charlotte last week. But some Democrats, such as Glenn, worry that such an endorsement might hurt Obama's re-election in swing states.

"The way this issue has been framed by the party, I think is very disingenuous," Glenn said. "It appears people feel that in order to support President Obama, you have to support same-sex marriage and some of the other issues like the Dream Act. You can vote independently on those issues."

If same-sex marriage survives in Maryland, which votes on three other referendums in November, it could be the tipping point for the national movement. More than half of the states have faced referendums defining marriage as the union of a man and woman, and each time, voters have approved those amendments. But a lot has happened since other states held those votes, Nix said.

"The last time this was on the ballot was four years ago, and a lot's changed in those four years," Nix said. "This is a new world. We've seen poll after poll nationally show that a clear majority of Americans support marriage equality and that number, that majority, is growing."

But Maryland voters are locked in a dead heat, according to the same January 2012 Gonzales poll data, with 49 percent supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage and 47 percent opposing. Given the plus-or-minus 3-percentage points margin of error, that leaves the issue up for grabs for either side.

The close race and potential implications nationwide have donors pouring millions of dollars into the state.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights lobby, recently spent another $250,000 in Maryland, raising the organization's total spent on the state's battle over same-sex marriage to more than $1.6 million.

While funding is important, Nix said the key to winning this debate goes back to grassroots campaigning and making sure people are engaging in conversations. And that's something both sides agree on.

"We're going to be showing up at events, we're going to be engaging people from businesses to churches to organizations across the state," said Derek McCoy, spokesman for the Maryland Marriage Alliance.

Both McCoy and Nix said the fundamental goal for the fall is to be a catalyst for conversations.

"We're encouraging people of all walks of life to have those conversations," McCoy said. "Have them with your kids, have them with your friends. The important part is to have them."
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Jack Downs September 12, 2012 at 11:16 AM
In this article, I don't see a single reason why anyone would be opposed to same-sex marriage. Can someone who opposes it please enlighten me? What is it that you fear, or what threatens you, enought to vote for removing this right from a fellow citizen?
Buck Harmon September 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM
If marriage is modified by the pursuit of perceived equal rights and the happiness of same sex folks being legally together, then why would the equality and happiness be limited to just two human beings sharing love for each other...why not let 3 or 4 marry together for the exact same reason? Pretty silly battle if you ask me. let people live freely without legislating every aspect down to a gnats ass....to many other more important issues that need to be addressed...... Romney would probably support the idea of more than two being joined together in a state of matrimony though...
Chris E September 12, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I will not support it for the reason JoAnn stated above.
MarkSF September 12, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Words can have multiple definitions, pick up a dictionary or Google one and you'll find that out. Marriage, in the religious sense, could be defined to mean a union between a man and a woman, or a man and multiple women even. Marriage, in the civil sense, could be defined to mean a union between two persons, regardless of their gender. See how that works? And JoAnn, straight people flash their privates all over New Orleans during Mardi Gras so should straight people be confined to New Orleans? Maybe you should take a trip to the Castro in beautiful San Francisco and see it for yourself - your narrow mind just might benefit from some exercise.
Linguist September 13, 2012 at 03:25 AM
With respect, many religious organizations support marriage equality for gay couples. Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism in America is one. Unitarianism is another. Quakers and many others do as well. So I am not sure why SOME religious definitions should be tied into civil marriage laws while others are not. Could you please explain? Thanks.
JoeEldersburg September 13, 2012 at 08:21 PM
OK, so Joann let me see if I understand you...since Communists support SSM, unless I support Communists, I should not support SSM? Interesting logic perhaps, but I guess it's not so much different as to why I don't support the Tea Party, because of their association with bigots and religious zealots. Like many, you seem to suggest that the majority of voters should make the rules and that this will enforce "fairness" under the law. Not surprisingly, past civil rights legislation consistently supports the rights of the minorities, as if we had majority rule on everything, we might still have slavery, segregation or women not voting. Having a majority doesn't make it the right choice...you need look no further than our Commissioners to see what majority rule gives us.
Buck Harmon September 14, 2012 at 12:29 AM
ClASSy gal,,,
John September 17, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Laws are usually passed to benefit society as a whole, not certain minority groups . While homosexual sex may benefit those who are inclined that way it does not provide a benefit to general society. Heterosexuality benefits society in that it ensures that the human race will endure. The small amout of legislation geared to benefit heterosexual unions, i.e. marriage, is actually designed to help the family, through tax benefits geared towards deductions for children, inheritance law to ensure that children inherit in the absence of a will without having to hire an attorney to fight off other claims, and provision for directives concerning medical treatment for a spouse or child who cannot make that decision for themselves either due to infirmity or immaturity. If a homosexual couple wish to leave their estate to each other they need only draw up a will, something that most people should do anyway. I believe that anyone can appoint whoever they desire to have medical power of attorney. What are the other legal "rights" that are being denied to homosexuals because the goverment does not recognize marriage between them?

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