It's officially in ink, and headed to a voting booth near you come November.
The Maryland State Board of Elections on Aug. 20 released the wording for the ballot referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which grants same-sex couples in the Free State the rights to marry, as both supporters and opponents ready themselves for a final push ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
The referendum, known as Question 6, will allow voters to vote ''for the referred law'' to uphold the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which was passed narrowly by both chambers of the legislature and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), or ''against the referred law,'' which would effectively rescind the right of same-sex couples and their families to have their relationships recognized by the state.
According to the State Board of Elections, Question 6 will read as follows:
''Establishes that Maryland's civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.''
Following the release of the referendum language, Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, sent an e-mail to supporters telling them about the proposed language and asking them to vote in favor of Question 6. Levin also told supporters to ''like'' and ''share'' an image reading ''Vote for Equality, Vote for Fairness, Vote for 6'' on Facebook.
''I know that in other states we've seen confusing ballot language that has led to voters voting against marriage equality when they mean to vote for it,'' Levin said in his e-mail. ''We are lucky – that's not the case here. We need to make sure everyone knows a vote FOR Question 6 is a vote for marriage.''
Levin also included a message at the end of his e-mail asking supporters to chip in $5 to help with the campaign, underscoring the campaign's reliance on individual donors to finance their ability to run a statewide campaign.
Marriage equality opponents, led by the Maryland Marriage Alliance and backed by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), have vowed to defeat the law at the ballot box. Officials from the Maryland Marriage Alliance were not immediately available to comment on the release of the referendum language.
Political observers expect both sides to spend millions of dollars to convince voters to support their cause. Levin has previously estimated the cost of just one week of television commercials airing in the D.C. and Baltimore media markets costs to reach up to $1.2 million.
In addition to Levin's fundraising pitch, marriage equality supporters have hosted several big-ticket fundraisers and happy hours in Maryland and the District to raise money for the campaign.
Brent Swift, finance director for the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign, sent supporters an e-mail inviting them to a D.C. Young Professionals Happy Hour on Aug. 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Local 16, located at 1602 U Street NW. Attendees will be able to meet Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), one of the seven members of Maryland's LGBT Caucus in the House of Delegates.
Tickets for the event cost $40 for students and those under 25, $50 for those over 25 and $500 for those wishing to be listed as a host for the event. All tickets may be purchased through the Marylanders for Marriage Equality website.
The Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition is also planning a ''Day of Action'' for Saturday, Aug. 25, and is seeking volunteers to help canvass by knocking on doors and talking to potential voters, phone banking and hosting house parties to have discussions with undecided voters about the importance of marriage equality. Volunteers may register online and are asked to check in at 10 a.m. sharp in four different locations: Baltimore City, Towson, in Baltimore County, Silver Spring, in Montgomery County and Greenbelt, in Prince George's County.
''We're really looking forward to spreading out across the state – for the first time in a single day – to talk with voters about how marriage about why marriage – about how marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples is all about fairness for all families and treating people equally,'' Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesman Kevin Nix said in an e-mail to Metro Weekly.