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Same-sex marriage in Maryland

Referendum proposal. Polling data. Implications
of the 2010-NOV elections. 2009-MAY to 2010-DEC

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Referendum proposal:

Delegate Don Dwyer also pushed for a ballot referendum to, at least temporarily, decide the issue.

According to a paper by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University published in the American Political Science Review, a slight majority of Maryland voters support same-sex marriage (SSM) in the state:

  • Maryland has the tenth highest level of support for the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) of any of the states.

  • As of 2008-9, about 45% of Maryland supported SSM. A referendum to ban SSM in Maryland would probably pass in 2010.

  • If the recent trend continues, a majority of Maryland adults should support SSM by 2011.

  • Support for recognizing SSMs performed elsewhere should be marginally higher than support for legalizing SSMs to be performed in Maryland.

  • Because of the influence that fear campaigns waged by opponents to SSMs have on voters, something like a 55% majority in the polls favoring the legalizing of SSM would probably need to be achieved before a referendum to ban SSMs would be defeated. If the current trend continues, this will not happen until about 2012 or 2013.

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2010-MAY-11: Washington Post poll results:

The gradual shift towards increasing support for SSM seen throughout the U.S. is visible in Maryland as well. The Washington Post released results from its most recent poll that was conducted between MAY-03 and 06:

  • When asked whether same-sex couples who have been legally married in another jurisdiction should be able to have their marriages recognized in Maryland:
    • 55% of those who responded to the poll agreed.
    • 38% were opposed.
    • 7% were undecided or didn't answer.
    • This shows that a strong majority of Maryland adults agree with Attorney General Douglas Gansler's decision.

  • When asked whether same-sex couples be allowed to marry in Maryland:
    • 48% favored legal SSM
    • 44% were opposed
    • 10% were undecided or didn't answer.
    • The three add up to 102%, presumably due to rounding.
    • Among registered voters, 48% favored SSM while 43% are opposed.

These data represent a major change since a previous Washington Post poll taken in late 2007. It used identical questions and found only 44% in favor of SSM and 51% opposed. 1 National polls indicate that support for SSM is increasing at about the same rate as for Maryland: a little over 1 percentage point a year or about 13 percentage point per year.

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2010-MAY: Status of the impeachment and referendum proposals.

The attempt to impeach Attorney General Douglas Gansler failed. According to the Washington Post, a coalition "... formed by black pastors and [other] conservative Christians repeatedly traveled to Annapolis this spring to hold rallies in hopes of pressuring lawmakers to pass bills that would have rolled back the attorney general's decision." They were unsuccessful.

Gansler said:

"More and more people know gay people and realize they are working people, that they do their jobs and conduct their lives like everybody else. ... Attitudes are changing, and they are changing rapidly because there is a recognition that it is unfair -- legally and morally -- to prohibit people from the pursuit of happiness. Twenty years from now we'll look back and think this was a quaint discussion -- every state will have gone this way."

Delegate Emmett C. Burns (D), a Baltimore County pastor opposes SSM. He does not attribute the polling trends to a change in public opinion. He believes that the public is being pressured by politicians into accepting it. He said:

"The public is not changing -- politicians are changing. They get elected and push the gay-lesbian agenda. They are ruthless in aggressively fashioning it as a form of discrimination, and that's simply not accurate."

Further analysis of the polling data indicates that there is increasing support for marriage equality among the state's Democrats and independents, who make up nearly three-quarters of the population. SSM support by Republicans has gone in the opposite direction; their support has dropped from 36% in 2007 to 25% percent today. The current poll shows 69% of Republicans are opposed. 1

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Results of the 2010-NOV state elections:

Equality Maryland endorsed 82 "pro-equality" candidates; 74 won, including Governor elect Martin O'Malley.

On 2010-DEC-09, Evan Hurst posted a op-ed piece on the Truth Wins Out website. The group's motto is "Fighting anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth."

"A majority of senators on a key committee in Maryland now favor legalizing same-sex marriage, making it increasingly likely that the state will join five others and the District in allowing such unions."

"Membership changes on the panel, where same-sex marriage bills have previously died, are among a handful of shifts produced by last month’s elections. Collectively, they appear to have tipped the balance on the most high-profile social issue the General Assembly will consider during its upcoming 90-day session."

"Republican gains Nov. 2 in other state legislatures are expected to lead to more conservative social policies. But Democrats in Maryland bucked the trend, adding two seats to their majority in the Senate. Moreover, when the General Assembly convenes next month, a few senators who lost primaries will be replaced by Democrats more supportive of same-sex unions." 2

John Watner of the Washington Post wrote:

" 'This has truly been a transformative election on this issue,' said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), an openly gay lawmaker who has sponsored same-sex marriage legislation and plans to push for passage this session. 'I could not have hoped for a better result. You can see a real path to enacting this legislation'."

"Despite Maryland's reputation as a liberal state, lawmakers have been slower to embrace same-sex unions than their colleagues in some other blue states, in part because of the strong opposition of the Catholic and black churches."

"The legislation would remove a long-standing requirement in Maryland law that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman."

"Leaders of the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social policy, said they have the votes to pass the measure. And Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said he would sign such a bill, although he has previously supported the alternative of civil unions. ..."

"If a same-sex marriage bill is approved, advocates on both sides say they expect opponents to take advantage of a provision in Maryland that allows residents to petition recently passed laws to the ballot. A successful signature drive would put the measure on hold, pending the results of a statewide referendum in November 2012."

"Support for ballot measures can be difficult to gauge this far out, but a Washington Post poll conducted in [2010-]May found that 46 percent of Marylanders favored legalizing same-sex marriage, 44 percent opposed it and 10 percent had no opinion."

"Those results reflected rapidly evolving attitudes on an issue that tends to break along generational lines. In late 2007, an identical Post poll question found 44 percent in favor overall and 51 percent opposed in Maryland."

"In the nearer term, opponents in the Senate are expected to mount a filibuster to block the legislation. That would require a super-majority to move forward -- including support from some more conservative Democrats opposed to the measure but willing to allow an up-or-down vote." 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Aaron C. Davis & Jennifer Agiesta, "Poll finds gains for same-sex marriage in Maryland," Washington Post, 2010-MAY-11, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Evan Hurst, "Maryland likely next in line for marriage equality," 2010-DEC-09, at: http://www.truthwinsout.org/
  3. John Wagner, "With Democratic gains in state Senate, Maryland poised to approve same-sex marriage," The Washington Post, 2010-DEC-09, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > MD > here

Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-MAR-03
Latest update: 2011-FEB-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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