Continued from page 1

The Rev. Donte’ L. Hickman Sr., pastor at Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, says his religion prohibits him from presiding over a gay wedding but that he thinks gays should be entitled to secular, state-recognized marriage.

The pastor said leaders who support gay marriage are just now catching up to views that have long existed in the public.

“I think the pews are ahead of a lot of the pulpits,” he said. “The church should not allow its convictions to impose upon other people’s human rights.”

While gay-marriage supporters say momentum is on their side, opponents argue that Mr. Obama, the NAACP and other groups are out of touch with the American public.

Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a black Baptist minister who opposes gay marriage, blasted the Public Policy survey as a “push poll” and said it is part of an ongoing effort to coax the public into voting in favor of Maryland’s law.

“I have some oceanfront property in Nebraska I want to sell you if you believe that poll,” said Mr. Burns, Baltimore County Democrat. “Those in government who support this are following a small minority that has a powerful agenda that they are afraid to oppose.”

Both sides will be in for a tough battle until November, as local and national groups are expected to spend millions in campaign dollars to sway public opinion.

Supporters have been lead by state Democrats and Marylanders for Marriage Equality — a coalition that includes unions and select religious leaders, as well as gay-rights groups Equality Maryland and the Human Rights Campaign.

Opposition has come largely from the religious community, Republicans and some black Democrats, and it has been led by the Maryland Marriage Alliance and National Organization for Marriage.