Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday braced supporters of gay marriage rights in Maryland for a long battle and urged them to work hard throughout the state to persuade voters to support equal rights under the law for same-sex couples.
Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat who will be sponsoring gay marriage legislation in next year's session, Mr. Brown and Mr. Gansler all spoke at a fundraiser for Equality Maryland, the state's largest gay civil rights group. Mr. O'Malley, who has pledged to include protections for religious freedom in the measure, said the legislation is about protecting Maryland families.
"This is about making sure that every family in Maryland is able to raise their children in a loving and stable home, a home that is respected equally under the law," Mr. O'Malley said.
The governor also encouraged an audience that filled a room in the Jane E. Lawton Community Recreational Center in Chevy Chase to be "committed to expanding that circle of inclusion into those core fundamental beliefs that unite us as a people."
"Even people that do not yet agree with us on this issue, there's a lot of goodness in each and every individual, and we need to engage in that goodness," Mr. O'Malley said. "We need to call people to that goodness. We need to call people together in the center of that circle that makes us a great state – that makes us a great country — because we believe in the dignity of every individual, and we believe in the advancement of the greater good."
Many supporters acknowledge the likelihood that opponents of the legislation will be able to get enough signatures to petition a bill passed by the General Assembly to the November 2012 ballot.
Mr. Brown said successfully changing the state's law that marriage must be between a man and a woman will require a coalition of supporters working in every Maryland county.
"It's going to require thousands of phone calls and conversations, thousands of emails and letters and door-knocking," Mr. Brown said. "It's going to require all of us to redouble our efforts to find those Marylanders who are willing to step forward and demonstrate their commitment to marriage equality and protecting families in Maryland."
Mr. Gansler, who issued a legal opinion last year saying Maryland must recognize gay marriages from other states, also braced supporters for a protracted political and legal challenge.
"It's not a done deal," Mr. Gansler, a Democrat, said. "We need to work hard, but I'm confident that will happen."
Gay marriage legislation passed the Senate in this year's session, but the measure stalled in the House of Delegates.