By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com November 07 2012 12:08 AM ET
Maryland voters made history on Tuesday by becoming among the first in the nation's history to affirm marriage equality at the ballot box.
Throughout the evening's election returns, Maryland's Question 6 maintained a strong lead, but the final tally saw Marylanders uphold the state's marriage equality law, according to Politico.
“Today the marriage equality map expands to Maryland, giving thousands more loving couples the opportunity to make lifelong commitments through marriage," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. "This is a milestone night for the simple truth that when Americans are presented with the real lives of their friends and neighbors, they have no choice but to vote for their equality.It is the momentum reflected in poll after poll that shows a growing majority for marriage equality across the country.
“This victory in Maryland has been hard fought from the legislative fight to a massive campaign operation and we are so proud to have been leaders alongside our state partners in this effort," Griffin continued.
“Governor O’Malley has been a champion of this issue and deserves the appreciation of all fair-minded Americans. His leadership, along with groups like the NAACP, have shown that at the end of the day human dignity wins out and that in this country we can have no second-class citizens or second-class marriages."
In March of this year, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law a marriage equality bill that had successfully passed through both chambers of the state legislature. But before the law could take effect, opponents gathered enough signatures to refer the issue to voters with a referendum, which appeared on Maryland's ballot as Question 6.
Maryland voters saw Question 6 appear on the ballot under the title "Civil Marriage Protection Act." The question read: "Establishes that Maryland's civil marriage law allows 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."
While polling consistently indicates a tight race to protect marriage equality in Maryland, the most recent snapshots offered an optimistic outlook. A Washington Post poll from October 18 found marriage equality had a 9-point lead, with 52% of likely voters in favor of equality and 43% saying they oppose the proposed law. While that margin wasn't big enough to guarantee victory, many pundits' eyes were on the African American community, which makes up about a quarter of Maryland's electorate and which turned out in force to help reelect Barack Obama. African American voters are typically Democratic, and polls indicate that support for marriage equality among black Americans has been steadily rising since the president announced his personal support for marriage equality in April. The Baltimore-based NAACP followed suit 10 days later. A Baltimore Sun poll of likely voters found that "more than half of likely black voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with a quarter who are opposed."
Back in September, O'Malley told reporters that equality advocates needed to raise an additional $2 million to ensure Question 6 passed in November. A recent Baltimore Sun article found that both pro- and anti-equality campaigns have nearly emptied their coffers funding this fight. Marylanders for Marriage Equality reported raising $4.3 million, with sizable donations from the National Education Association ($300,000) and GOP bundler Paul Singer ($250,000), who has donated to equality campaigns across the country.
The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the legislation, reported raising more than $850,000. According to The Sun, more than $400,000 of that money came from nationwide antigay group the National Organization for Marriage. The Catholic Church and its affiliate, the Knights of Columbus, have donated more than $250,000 to the anti-equality effort, which means donations from Catholic groups, when combined with the Catholic-adjacent NOM's contributions, make up more than 75% of MMA's total war chest, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
President Obama was among the first to endorse marriage equality efforts in Maryland, when back in June he told a group of supporters that voting for Question 6 was "the right thing to do." In October, an Obama spokesperson reaffirmed that support, telling The Sun that the commander in chief supports Question 6. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, not only endorsed the Yes on 6 campaign, but also added a quarter-million dollar donation to Marylanders for Marriage Equality in mid-October.
On October 12, the NAACP confirmed its support for Maryland's Question 6 during a press conference with President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. The coalition supporting marriage equality boasted more than 100 partners from a broad cross-section of the business, private and public sector, entertainment, and faith communities.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality enlisted Obama's voice in a radio ad released less than two weeks before the election and made history by being the first marriage equality campaign to specifically target African American voters. The equality coalition's first TV ads featured two black Baptist Reverends indicating their support and affirming the belief that "government should treat everyone equally," while not forcing "any church to perform a same-sex marriage if it's against their beliefs."
The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes marriage equality, released the standard misleading, dishonest ads equality opponents rely upon time and time again. The anti-equality campaign started its TV blitz with an 30-second spot falsely claiming that children do best when raised by a married mother and father, and that marriage had been comprised of "one man and one woman" for thousands of years. Another ad, featuring Marylander Ceci Royals, claimed that equality opponents are victims of intimidation when they are called bigots, cowards, and "sexual rednecks."