Will President Obama’s embrace of same-sex marriage matter in Maryland this fall?
In a statement released Thursday, Marylanders for Marriage Equality called Obama’s support “a great boost to our campaign” and said that “we think many voters will identify with his journey.”
Opponents are collecting signatures with the hope of forcing a public vote on a law signed in March by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that would allow gay nuptials starting Jan. 1.
Derek McCoy of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which is leading the petition effort, said Obama’s stance will not affect the efforts of his group, which McCoy said has been led by “a diverse coalition of partners.”
“The issue of marriage in Maryland is not at all a partisan issue, which is evident from our coalition crossing not only ethnic and religious communities,” but also party lines, McCoy said.
Polls have shown Marylanders to be nearly divided over the issue of same-sex marriage.
A Washington Post poll early this year showed that 50 percent of adults voiced support for same-sex marriage and 44 percent opposed it.
In several other states that have held ballot measures related to same-sex marriage, opponents have done better on Election Day than polls would suggest.
That’s because some voters tell pollsters what they think is the “socially acceptable” position but vote the other way, said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Eberly said he thinks Obama’s position could matter some in Maryland, particularly among African-American supporters of the president.
Black voters make up a greater percentage of the electorate in Maryland than in any state outside the Deep South. Support for same-sex marriage among African Americans significantly lags that of white residents.
Obama’s support “could be just enough for folks to say maybe we need to view this as an issue of equality or fairness,” Eberly said.
In its statement, Marylanders for Marriage Equality referenced efforts in other states by same-sex marriage opponents to undercut African-American support for gay nuptials.
“Opponents of marriage equality have sought to divide us along religious and racial lines,” the group said. “But as the president said, ‘The denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.’ Here in Maryland, we agree, and that's why we're working to ensure that all children may be in loving, stable homes protected under the law.”