Maryland Signatories Subjected to Spotlight

Gay paper puts those advocating marriage vote -- not necessarily repeal -- online, to mixed, emotional reactions

Beyer says the pro-marriage-equality bloc has been trying to keep its message clear and simple, encouraging Marylanders to vote in favor of upholding the marriage-equality law. She says the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition could have tried to challenge the petition signatures, but decided not to, in order to avoid being seen as undermining the democratic process – a decision, she notes, with which she disagrees.

”Just from past experience, we’ve never won at the ballot box,” she says.

Beyer’s perspective is that broadcasting the names would be helpful if it were part of a longer-term outreach strategy to change people’s minds, but that with less than 100 days before the election, it’s going to be hard to convince signatories to switch their position.

She also warns of possible backlash, wondering aloud if the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) or the Catholic Church might argue that LGBT people are trying to intimidate others.

”The question is: Will this blow over or be used as a campaign tactic?” she asks.

Blade editorial staff did not respond to a request for comment.

Kevin Nix, spokesman for the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition, distanced the campaign from the Blade‘s decision to publish the names, saying the campaign has been focused on winning in November.

”Everyone is free to express their opinion, and this is precisely what some voters did by signing the petition,” Nix said in a statement. ”We respect that. The publication of voters’ names is not an effort this campaign supports or condones.

”Our focus is very clear: to win at the ballot box,” Nix continued. ”We will keep making the case that affirming the new civil marriage law is a vote for stronger families and basic fairness. And we encourage our supporters to do the same – to talk to people who may still be evolving. What matters is having those conversations and meeting folks where they are on their journey on the marriage issue. That’s how we win.”

Nix’s words may serve as welcome guidance to Eric Wolvovsky. A Maryland native who lives with his partner in Silver Spring, Wolvovsky found two neighbors on the petition, as well as his parents’ next-door neighbor and the family of a former babysitter.

”We were friendly to them,” Wolvovsky says of his neighbors. ”But we never discussed the petition. It never occurred to us to talk to them about it. We assumed our very presence in the neighborhood was demonstration enough.”

Wolvovsky says he wants to confront his neighbors, but is trying to figure out what to say. He has vowed to become more involved in the referendum campaign, and wants to be able to communicate to his neighbors why marriage is important to him and his partner.

Wolvovsky also says he’s stunned that people in Montgomery County, with a large gay population and reputation for being ahead of the most of the state when it comes to extending rights to LGBT people, could be opposed to same-sex marriage. He says that after spotting his neighbors as signatories, he’s second-guessing how supportive his fellow Marylanders are of marriage equality and worries about what may happen in November on Election Day.

”A week ago, I would have said this neighborhood would have voted for equality,” Wolvovsky says. ”Now I’m not so sure.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com