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“People have found that the world doesn’t fall apart,” Mr. Niemann said. “Marriages don’t collapse, families don’t disappear, and the opposition goes way down.”

Mr. Dwyer said he expects conditions to be especially favorable for a “no” vote on Election Day 2012, as conservatives who oppose gay marriage turn out in support of a Republican presidential candidate and blacks — who have been shown in polls to oppose gay marriage more frequently than the general population — show up at the polls in support of President Obama.

Gay marriage is already looking to be a factor in the 2012 campaign. The Obama administration last week issued a decision to no longer defend in court part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Sunday night that the president’s decision was an attempt to bolster his support among gay-rights activists and like-minded supporters.

He said the GOP-led House is considering a suggestion last week from potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum that the speaker appoint a special House counsel to take up the DOMA case in federal court.

“I’m really disappointed in the president and the Department of Justice in the fact that theyre not going to defend a law that Congress passed overwhelmingly,” Mr. Boehner told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I’d be very surprised if the House didn’t decide that they were going to defend the law.”

Todd Eberly, interim director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said that while it is difficult to gauge the climate nearly two years from now, the black vote will be especially important in a referendum. He said he expects voters will continue to be driven more by economic than social issues in the election and that conservatives will be easily outnumbered, leaving black voters as the true wild card in a gay-marriage debate.

“For the proponents of same-sex marriage, they’ve got to speak to African-American voters on the concept of basic fairness,” Mr. Eberly said, adding that sentiment against gay marriage among blacks has come largely from religious influences and resentment over comparisons to the civil rights movement. “If proponents can make that case, then Maryland may be the first state to put this up to a ballot and uphold the law.”