A new survey released by Patrick E. Gonzales' Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. could indicate a small but important decline in support for same-sex marriages in Maryland over the past year.
The company conducted three surveys over the past 12 months -- January 2011, October 2011, and the newly released January 2012. Some 800 registered Maryland voters were questioned by telephone each time. With an estimated margin of error of 3.5%, the surveys show some interesting reactions to the following question:
Would you favor or oppose a law in Maryland allowing same-sex couples to marry, giving them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in areas such as tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage?
If accurate, the overall results seem to indicate a small decline from those in favor (51% down to 48.8%) and a slight increase in opposition (44.1% up to 47%). The October 2011 survey showed an even higher disparity with 49.1% opposed, and only 48.2% in favor.
Two or three percentage points in either direction is significant in this case because the opinions received are split near the crucial halfway mark. A new same-sex marriage Bill is expected to be introduced in Maryland soon, and a referendum challenge is likely to follow. With such a close split of opinion, every voter in favor of same-sex marriage would have to show their support at the ballot box to defeat an anti-gay referendum.
According to this new Gonzales survey, Maryland's Democrats are largely in favor of granting lesbian and gay couples marriage equality, while Republicans remain significantly more opposed. However, both Democrats and Republicans indicated a small weakening in favorability and a small strengthening of opposition. Independents, though, rose in both favorability and opposition (because more chose to answer the question this year than last).
Gonzales' survey also broke down results by "race," but only for "White" and "African-American." White voters, the survey claims, rose in favorability for marriage equality, but African-American voters declined over the past 3 months. According to Census data, Maryland's percentage of black residents is more than double the national average (29.4% vs. 12.6% nationally) with white residents somewhat lower (58.2% vs. 72.4% nationally).
Gonzales' survey went so far as to claim:
"Opposition to same-sex marriage among African-American voters is what keeps the issue close in the state. If black support was equivalent to that of Democrats, as it is on many issues, same-sex marriage would be in a solid majority in Maryland."
In the larger picture, it ought to be noted that the opposition includes a number of groups and politicians of different backgrounds. Chief among these detractors include leaders of the Catholic Archdiocese of Maryland and Catholic Charities, the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, Delegate Don Dwyer, Delegate Emmet C. Burns, and preachers like Harry Jackson. The Archdiocese, Dwyer and others are calling for foes of gay families to attend a "Rally for Marriage and Family" at the Lawyer's Mall in Annapolis, MD, on Monday, January 30, from 6-8 p.m. (next to the Governor's Mansion and State House).