That is the highest recorded level of support in Maryland in a Post poll, about the same for the rest of the country as measured by another recent Post survey despite Maryland’s reputation as one of the nation’s most liberal states.
The new poll found a sharp divide among Maryland Democrats based on race. Among whites, 71 percent support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent do not. Among blacks, 41 percent are supportive, while 53 percent are opposed. Maryland has the largest percentage of African Americans of any state outside of the Deep South.
The poll findings highlight the challenge ahead for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) as he tries to pass legislation this year in the heavily Democratic General Assembly, where there is a rift within his party over gay nuptials that mirrors public sentiment.
Debate in the General Assembly is intensifying on a bill that would make Maryland the seventh state, in addition to the District, to legalize same-sex marriage.
Several hundred people, including some ministers and lawmakers, convened Monday night in a rally outside the State House in Annapolis to make clear they still oppose legislation that narrowly passed the Senate last year but fell short in the House of Delegates.
In advance of a Senate hearing on the bill, gay-rights supporters are planning a news conference Tuesday morning with clergy members to show the measure has religious support in the 90-day legislative session.
In recent public appearances, O’Malley has sought to stress that “religious exemptions” included in his bill are intended to reassure religious leaders that they will not be forced to perform same-sex marriages.
The poll found that nearly three-quarters of those opposed to gay nuptials say their views stem primarily from their religious beliefs — a factor that makes lobbying on the issue more challenging.
By contrast, only 5 percent of same-sex marriage supporters say their views are largely shaped by religious beliefs. Supporters are far more apt to cite the views of their families and friends, personal experiences or their education as their main motivation.
The poll also found that those who attend religious services weekly are nearly three times as likely to oppose same-sex marriage as those who do not attend at all.
As in other parts of the country, there has been a trend in Maryland in recent years of growing support for gay unions, driven in part by the views of younger people.
The Post poll found that among adult residents younger than 40, support for same-sex marriage is 63 percent, with 33 percent opposed. Among those 40 and older, 42 percent are in favor, while 51 percent are opposed.
The mind-set of Daniel Carlin-Weber, 23, is fairly typical of his generation. A Dundalk resident who works at a film and video production company, Carlin-Weber got married in August and said he sees no reason why gay couples shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as him and his wife.