Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition of groups working to pass same-sex marriage legislation in the state, launched a new video series on Monday. O’Malley, who has pledged to make the legislation a priority in 2012, appears in the first video.
In the 45-second spot, O’Malley talks about balancing religious freedom and the freedom to marry.
“As a free and diverse people of many different faiths, we choose to be governed under the law by certain fundamental principles, among them, equal protection of the law for every individual and the free exercise of religion without government intervention,” O’Malley says in the video. “The legislation we plan to introduce in the 2012 legislative session will protect religious freedom and equality of marital rights under the law.”
O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor, announced in July that he would prioritize marriage equality legislation after receiving criticism for not being vocal enough in his support of the bill during the 2011 legislative session. Like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who successfully pushed for such legislation in New York this year, O’Malley is mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential hopeful in 2016.
Aspects of the new series, such as the soaring soundtrack, appear modeled on the widely praised New Yorkers for Marriage Equality videos from the Human Rights Campaign, featuring celebrities, professional athletes, and elected officials, not including Cuomo. On the other hand, the audiences and political dynamics in the two states differ, and in Maryland, a coalition is involved with the videos from the start. The coalition includes HRC, 1199 SEIU, Progressive Maryland, ACLU-Maryland, Equality Maryland, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Luke Clippinger, and the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP, which recently joined the effort.
“We are certainly grateful the governor is kicking off our video campaign, which will give state lawmakers the opportunity to see the depth and diversity of support for civil marriage equality,” said Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the Baltimore NAACP chapter, in a news release from the coalition. “The momentum is on our side, including significant gains in the African-American community.”
African-American support for marriage equality is crucial in Maryland, where blacks make up nearly 30% of the population. Some analysts attribute the failure of the bill to advance in the House of Delegates last spring to opposition from religious leaders, particularly African-American pastors from Prince George’s County near Washington, D.C. Recent polls show that narrow majorities of Maryland voters support marriage equality, with African-Americans in favor by 48% to 41%.
The inaugural Marylanders for Marriage Equality video will air online. In addition to ongoing videos, the coalition also plans phone-banking operations, postcard drops, and letter-writing campaigns to state legislators. Lawmakers will meet in special session October 17, but they are not expected to take up the marriage equality bill until 2012.