A spokesman for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition of groups working to defend the state’s recently passed civil marriage law, said the coalition is undeterred by the number of signatures opponents have successfully collected to force a November referendum aimed at repealing the law.
Opponents of marriage equality, led by the Maryland Marriage Alliance (MMA), announced on MMA’s Facebook page and Twitter feed on June 25 that they had submitted a new round of 39,743 signatures from petitions they had been circulating to force a referendum.
Opponents had previously submitted 113,000 signatures, more than the 55,736 needed under guidelines set by the Maryland State Board of Elections. As of June 21, the Board of Elections had validated 109,313 signatures from the first batch.
But Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said a referendum was expected.
“As we expected, our opponents met the legal signature threshold and the Civil Marriage Protection Act will be on the ballot this fall,” Levin said in a prepared statement. “Since all Maryland families deserve the dignity and respect that marriage brings, we’re focused on building a smart, strategic campaign to amplify and mobilize the 57 percent of Maryland voters who support the new same-sex marriage law. Committed, loving gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly under the law.”
In his statement, Levin referenced a May 2012 poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) that showed that, following President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality, attitudes among Marylanders had shifted. According to the poll, 57 percent of Marylanders saying they would vote to uphold the marriage equality law, and 37 percent saying they would vote to overturn it, up from a 52-44 margin in March. The poll also showed 55 percent of African-American Marylanders would vote to uphold the law, up from only 39 percent two months earlier.
The marriage equality law was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley (D) on March 1, following a contentious battle in the General Assembly that saw the measure pass each chamber with one vote to spare. It passed the House of Delegates on February 17 by a vote of 72-67 and the Senate on February 23 by a vote of 25-22.
If the marriage equality law is upheld, Maryland would become the eighth jurisdiction in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, marriage equality is legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York and Washington, D.C.
Washington State, which passed a law similar to Maryland’s, will also hold a referendum to repeal or uphold the law in November. Maine, which legalized marriage equality before a 2009 special election that repealed the law, will feature a citizen-backed initiative to restore those marriage rights in November.