- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — The group leading a petition effort against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law says it has more than twice the number of signatures needed to send the law to referendum one month before the state-mandated deadline.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance said Tuesday it has collected more than 113,000 voter signatures seeking a statewide vote on the law, which was passed in February by the General Assembly and is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

Petitioners have until June 30 to collect 55,736 valid voter signatures to force a statewide vote in November. One-third of those signatures — 18,579 — must be submitted Thursday, according to state law.

“What we are seeing is that countless thousands of Marylanders around this state want to see marriage go on the ballot,” said MMA Executive Director Derek McCoy. “But they also want to see it defined and upheld between one man and one woman.”

Organizers unloaded the first boxes of signatures Tuesday afternoon outside the Maryland secretary of state’s office. They said they expected to submit 113,505 signatures by day’s end and hope to eventually exceed 150,000 names.

The signatures must be submitted to the secretary of state then processed and validated by the state Board of Elections.

If successful, the effort would become just the second since 1992 to petition a Maryland law to a statewide referendum.

Last year, petitioners opposing the Dream Act — a law that would let many college-aged illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition rates — sent it to this fall’s ballot by collecting more than 100,000 signatures.

On Tuesday, Mr. McCoy was flanked by volunteers and community and religious leaders who heraldedthe signatures as a sign that the majority of Marylanders are ready to join the more than 30 states that have rejected gay marriage in statewide votes.

Petition organizers said they have gotten strong support from all ethnic and political groups, as well as more than 10,000 signatures from each of at least five counties, including Montgomery and Prince George’s.

They also cast doubt on recent polls and arguments from gay-marriage supporters who say Americans are becoming more accepting of gay marriage and that Maryland could this year become the first state to legalize it in a referendum.

“I may even flip-flop and change my perspective on many things, but my God does not change,” said Bishop Angel Nunez of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore. “And his commandments do not change.”

Petitioners have been collecting signatures since March and are widely expected to send the law to referendum.

Gay-marriage supporters argued Tuesday that those who have signed the petition are a small minority of voters.

The 55,736 required voter signatures are equal to 3 percent of residents who cast votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election — a formula set in the state constitution.

“The collection of those signatures does not collect the growing momentum among Maryland voters,” said the Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, faith director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “The truth of the matter is that our opponents have lost ground while we’ve seen a substantial growth.”

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