Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley headlines a fundraiser to protect his state's new marriage equality law in Manhattan on September 13. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
In March, Maryland joined Washington State as one of two states to enact marriage equality in 2012 through the legislative process. In response to the success of anti-gay forces in mobilizing opposition and forcing referendums in both states, voters must now approve the new marriage laws at the ballot box in November.
On September 13, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, who signed the Maryland law, will headline a fundraiser in Manhattan on behalf of Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
Josh Levin, the group’s campaign manager, explained the importance of New Yorkers stepping up to support progress on civil marriage rights in Maryland and elsewhere.
“We all know how big a deal it was that New York –– the nation's financial and cultural capital –– won marriage equality last year,” he told Gay City News in an email. “Now, it's Maryland's turn. A win here would be a giant leap forward, a major expansion of recent gains, given that Maryland would be the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to have marriage equality. And let’s not forget the obvious: a successful public vote on marriage would be a severe blow to our opponents nationwide.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn will also appear at the September 13 fundraiser. | DONNA ACETO
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will join O’Malley in addressing the fundraiser’s guests.
Opponents of the new law garnered more than the 56,000-signature hurdle to put it on the November ballot for voter approval. Earlier this year, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Maryland Marriage Alliance, made up primarily of African-American religious leaders — many of them affiliated with mega-churches in Prince George’s County, which borders Washington, DC — said it would be out front in pushing the referendum effort. That alliance is backed by the state’s Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a right-wing group that fights gay marriage and other same-sex partnership advances nationwide.
A Hart Research Association poll taken in late July showed that the new law has the support of 54 percent of voters versus 40 percent who plan to vote against it. Four months earlier, the margin for marriage equality was 51-43. Support for the law among African-Americans, who make up nearly a third of Maryland residents, has grown from 40 to 44 percent, while opposition declined from 49 to 45. Since May, both the NAACP and President Barack Obama have endorsed marriage equality.
Political professionals who contest referendum questions agree that the specific language printed on the ballot can be critical to the outcome. When the Maryland ballot language was released last month, advocates indicated they were satisfied, while those pushing to repeal the law voiced unhappiness.
The ballot question, which voters must either approve or reject, will read:
Civil Marriage Protection Act (Ch. 2 of the 2012 Legislative Session): Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.
Other famous names included on the September 13 fundraiser invitation include Barbara Bush, the former president’s daughter; hip hop mogul Russell Simmons; filmmaker John Waters, most of whose work has involved stories about his native Baltimore; professional hockey player Sean Avery, who spent the past four seasons with the New York Rangers; Bravo executive Andy Cohen; and actors and performers Sandra Bernhard, Julianna Margulies, Julianne Moore, Edward Norton, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The event takes place at Jimmy at the Top of the James Hotel, 15 Thompson Street, between Canal and Grand Streets, 6-8 p.m. Tickets begin at $250 at https://secure.mdfme.org/nyc or Amie@akmdevelopment.com.
In addition to Maryland and Washington State, marriage equality is also on the November ballot in Maine, where LGBT advocates are seeking to overturn a 2009 referendum that repealed the gay marriage law enacted there earlier that year, and Minnesota, where anti-gay groups are looking to impose a state constitutional ban on marriage by same-sex couples.