Until now, opponents have mounted a relatively quiet campaign, mobilizing through the state’s churches and civic organizations. That included an event last week featuring the archbishop of Baltimore and plans this Sunday for clergy in churches across the state to preach against changing the definition of marriage.
Proponents of Question 6 have been most visible raising money for the fight, gathering everywhere from the homes of local supporters to a New York rooftop bar where guests mingled with an array of celebrities, including Susan Sarandon. Last week, “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert spoke out for equal rights between songs at a benefit concert in the District.
At stake is not only a major policy for Maryland, but also history. Liberal-leaning Maryland is among three states where voters could affirm same-sex marriage at the ballot box in November — something that’s never happened before.
“Who wants to be the first in that regard?” asked Derek McCoy, a gregarious minister who is chairman of the No on 6 campaign. “We tell people straight up: This is a unique time in history. They have to make sure their voice is heard. It’s not about what any two people want. It’s about our society and future generations.”
Gay nuptials are legal in six other states and the District. But in each of those cases, the law was changed either by the legislature or through court action, not directly by the people.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed a same-sex marriage bill into law in March, but it was promptly petitioned to the ballot by a group led by McCoy, giving voters the final say.
Besides Maryland, Maine and Washington have measures on the ballot in November that would allow same-sex marriages. In another, Minnesota, voters will be asked whether to write a ban into the state constitution.
Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said his group is certainly aware of the historical significance of this year’s battle.
“Just about everybody in Maryland knows somebody who’s gay or lesbian,” Levin said. “They’re our neighbors, our family, our friends and our co-workers, and Question 6 is about treating them fairly and protecting religious freedom at the same time.”
Under the pending law, which would take effect Jan. 1 if voters approve, no religious group would be forced to perform same-sex weddings.
Recent public polling has shown proponents with an advantage of 10 or fewer percentage points. McCoy said he remains undaunted, given that in other states his side has generally performed better at the ballot box than in polling on same-sex marriage measures.