- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2012

The nation’s changing views on same-sex marriage and new support from black leaders could put Maryland on track toward becoming the first state to cast a public vote in favor of gay marriage, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey from liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling showed 57 percent of Maryland voters would vote for gay marriage if it is put to referendum this fall and just 37 percent would vote against it — a stark departure from past polls by the firm and other groups that have shown Marylanders to be almost evenly divided on the issue.

More than 30 states have put same-sex marriage to a statewide vote and all have rejected it. North Carolina voted handily this month to define marriage as between a man and woman.

Maryland is one of four states that could put the issue on the ballot this November, and many supporters and opponents acknowledge that growing public support for same-sex marriage and the state’s left-leaning politics could make this one of the closest votes yet.

“We’re going to have to earn the voters’ support and make sure that they understand our position,” said Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which has led opposition to the law. “Even though the numbers show that we are very tight … Maryland is going to be a very hard place for [gay-marriage supporters] to win.”

Maryland’s gay-marriage law was passed in February but is not slated to go into effect until January. It is widely expected that opponents will gather the required 55,736 valid voter signatures by June 30 to send the law to a November referendum.

It remains to be seen how accurate the Public Policy survey will prove. The firm released a poll May 1 that underestimated support for North Carolina’s amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman.

The poll by the North Carolina-based firm showed that voters favored the amendment by a 14-point margin. One week later, voters approved it by 22 points.

The group’s Maryland survey shows a major increase in support for gay marriage since an earlier poll it conducted in March, which showed that 52 percent of Maryland voters favored gay marriage while 44 percent opposed it.

This month’s poll was taken from May 14 to 21 and surveyed 852 likely voters. It has a 3.4 percent margin of error.

“There is an evolution of thought here that is starting to, hopefully, complete its course,” said Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, Montgomery Democrat, who is openly gay. “I think this says that Marylanders are fair-minded people who support love over fear and justice over discrimination.”

Pollsters attributed the swing to a groundswell of support among black voters, who have long opposed gay marriage in greater numbers than whites largely because of religious influences.

According to the poll, 55 percent of black voters now say they would vote for gay marriage while 36 percent say they would vote against it.

In March, 39 percent of black voters favored the law while 56 percent were against it.

Pollsters suggested the swing could be due in part to President Obama’s May 9 endorsement of gay marriage. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has also announced in recent days that it thinks gays should be allowed to wed.

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