Maryland is one of the first states, alongside Maine and Washington, to put the issue on the ballot after President Barack Obama announced his support of marriage equality last spring. His remarks, and resulting support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have emboldened both sides.
“The president coming out in May and supporting marriage for gay and lesbian couples combined with NAACP’s endorsement both go a long way toward getting the conversation really going in all kinds of communities, including the African-American community,” Mr. Nix said. “I think that dynamic plus actually having a successful vote on the ground in a state, again, will contribute heavily to the momentum we already have nationally.”
The Democratic Party added support of same sex marriage to its platform at the convention in Charlotte last week. But some Democrats, such as Ms. Glenn, worry that such an endorsement might hurt Obama’s re-election in swing states.
“The way this issue has been framed by the party, I think is very disingenuous,” Ms. Glenn said. “It appears people feel that in order to support President Obama, you have to support same-sex marriage and some of the other issues like the Dream Act. You can vote independently on those issues.”
If same-sex marriage survives in Maryland, which votes on three other referendums in November, it could be the tipping point for the national movement.
More than half of the states have faced referendums defining marriage as the union of a man and woman, and each time, voters have approved those amendments. But a lot has happened since other states held those votes, Mr. Nix said.
“The last time this was on the ballot was four years ago, and a lot’s changed in those four years,” Mr. Nix said. “This is a new world. We’ve seen poll after poll nationally show that a clear majority of Americans support marriage equality and that number, that majority, is growing.”
But Maryland voters are locked in a dead heat, according to the same January 2012 Gonzales poll data, with 49 percent supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage and 47 percent opposing. Given the plus-or-minus 3-percentage points margin of error, that leaves the issue up for grabs for either side.
The close race and potential implications nationwide have donors pouring millions of dollars into the state.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights lobby, recently spent another $250,000 in Maryland, raising the organization’s total spent on the state’s battle over same-sex marriage to more than $1.6 million.
While funding is important, Mr. Nix said the key to winning this debate goes back to grassroots campaigning and making sure people are engaging in conversations. And that’s something both sides agree on.
“We’re going to be showing up at events, we’re going to be engaging people from businesses to churches to organizations across the state,” said Derek McCoy, spokesman for the Maryland Marriage Alliance.
“We’re encouraging people of all walks of life to have those conversations,” Mr. McCoy said. “Have them with your kids, have them with your friends. The important part is to have them.”
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