Supporters of same-sex marriage in Maryland assert that both momentum and history are on their side. But these are assertions, not facts. In recent months, a development in the debate leading up to the November referendum on the issue has challenged these claims in a surprising way:

This summer, the petition that led to the state’s newly enacted same-sex marriage law being put on the ballot was back in the spotlight. The Washington Blade published the names and addresses of all petition signatories on its Web site. Many supporters of same-sex marriage were stunned to find the names of family members, friends and neighbors. One reader commented, “It really is disappointing to see so many people we know on this list. Personally, finding that aunts and uncles and my own father had signed was very upsetting.” Another said, “Just found out that our next door neighbors of 10 YEARS signed the Civil Marriage Petition to repeal the change coming in Maryland.”

While only 56,650 certified signatures were necessary to get the measure on the ballot, more than 160,000 signatures were collected and delivered to the Maryland Secretary of State.

After a certain point, the Board of Elections stopped counting. Of the 109,313 signatures certified by the board, only a little more than 53 percent of the signers were Republican (58,470). Nearly 37 percent were Democrats (40,046), and the remaining 10 percent were unaffiliated (10,645) and a smattering of Libertarians (112) and Green Party members (40).

The petitions made it clear to everyone: It’s not just Republicans who object to this legislation. This is a common, mainstream concern.

The problem with what happened in Annapolis this past year, resulting in the law that is now up for a vote, is that the governor and legislators rejected the idea of considering civil unions as a reasonable alternative. Instead, they shot for the moon.

I am reminded of a Post editorial from January 2010, which suggested the following:

“Justice and simple decency require that same-sex couples be afforded the same legal protections and benefits of marriage that are now, with a few exceptions, reserved for heterosexual couples. . . . But the group [Equality Maryland] and its lawmaker allies are shortsighted to refuse to consider — let alone accept — anything short of full marriage equality. . . . Lawmakers who back this provision should at least consider whether domestic partnerships or civil unions might stand a better chance of passage.”

The Post had it right then, though its view would change as the prospect for passage of a gay marriage law improved over time.

A signature on a petition actually says very little. Many attribute homophobic motives to the signers. In some cases, that may be true. I am certain that the vast majority are others who, like me, simply view “marriage” as an immutable term that can only apply to heterosexuals. It’s undeniable that, from age to age, marriage has been humanity’s greatest success and source of prosperity, crossing all cultures and religions. We shouldn’t mess with it.

Full disclosure: I am gay. A few years ago, I was on the other side of the fence on this topic. But the more I read, thought, investigated and attempted to defend my position, the more I realized that I couldn’t. I feel very strongly that gay relationships should be supported by society. I have grown convinced, however, that the term “marriage” should not be altered or adjusted in any way.

Let’s face it: We should not attempt to force into an old construct something that was never meant for same-sex partnerships. We should welcome the opportunity to christen a new tradition, beginning a new chapter in the history of gays and lesbians within American society. Same-sex relationships are different from heterosexual relationships, and gay men and lesbians need to accept that and design their own tradition.

The writer is a co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.