President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Maryland voters to support the state’s same-sex marriage law in a likely November referendum that could repeal the statute.
“We’re moving forward to a country where we treat everybody fairly and everybody equally, with dignity and respect,” he said during a campaign fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore. “And here in Maryland, thanks to the leadership of committed citizens and Gov. O’Malley, you have a chance to reaffirm that principle in the voting booth in November. It’s the right thing to do.”
Obama’s comments come less than a month after the Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted 113,000 signatures – more than double the 55,736 signatures they needed to collect by the end of the month to put the same-sex marriage law on the ballot. An unofficial count posted to the Maryland State Board of Elections’ website on Tuesday shows that officials have validated 109,317 of the 113,000 signatures.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted after Obama publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples during an interview with ABC News last month showed that his support of nuptials for gays and lesbians has had a significant impact on public opinion among African Americans on the issue. The poll found that 59 percent of black respondents said they support marriage rights for same-sex couples — an 18-point increase from surveys that had been taken before the president backed the issue.
A second survey from Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Maryland voters would support marriage rights for same-sex couples in the referendum. The same poll found that 55 percent of the state’s black voters back nuptials for gays and lesbians.
“We are grateful the president highlighted the marriage referendum in his remarks today,” said Josh Levin, campaign director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, after the fundraiser. “Voters identify with his journey on the issue and are re-thinking their own position on same-sex marriage. A strong majority already realize this is about treating gays and lesbians fairly under the law and about dignity for all Maryland families, not just some families. The president’s history-making leadership on marriage equality has inspired new conversations around kitchen tables and in church pews, not just in Maryland but all over the country.”
Maryland’s gay lawmakers welcomed Obama’s comments.
“What the president said was great,” said state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County.) “In a heavily Democratic state that will vote overwhelmingly for Barack Obama for president, having his support for this referendum is fantastic.”
Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) agreed.
“He came out incredibly strongly about what the right thing to do is in Maryland in November,” she told the Blade. “His support for marriage as we’re seeing in our baseline polling in this state has done a lot to swing public opinion here.”
“I feel really good about how things are going here in Maryland because of the president’s strong support,” added Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City.) “It’s caused people to stop and think again about this issue and it’s really turned the tables I think on the other side.”
The Maryland Marriage Alliance did not immediately return the Blade’s requests for comment.