The head of the campaign to defend Maryland’s same-sex marriage law stressed on Wednesday that he remains confident that voters will support nuptials for gays and lesbians in the likely November referendum.
“We feel pretty good,” said Josh Levin, campaign director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, told the Blade in an exclusive interview during a fundraiser for his organization at Bay Café in Baltimore. “The story since the beginning of the year has been momentum growing; whether that was passing the bill, signing it into law, the president’s announcement [in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples,] the NAACP nationally coming out in our favor. We’re just trying to build upon that as we go forward.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Equality Maryland executive director Carrie Evans and state Dels. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) were among the roughly 175 people who attended. Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesperson Kevin Nix told the Blade after the fundraiser that it raised “a few thousand dollars,” but he did not have an exact figure as of deadline.
Levin stressed he remains confident that he can run what he described as a “winning campaign” with between $5 and $7 million. Marylanders for Marriage Equality earlier this month opened two campaign offices in Baltimore and Silver Spring, and plans to have several others across the state in the coming weeks and months.
The campaign recently hired 12 new staffers and promoted Manley Calhoun to deputy field director.
“We feel like we’ll be able to do the things we need to do thanks to the efforts of our coalition and our partners who are going to be talking to voters,” said Levin.
A Public Policy Polling survey in May found that 57 percent of Marylanders would support nuptials for gays and lesbians in the referendum. The same poll found that 55 percent of the state’s black voters back marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
“Our poll numbers are probably the best in the country of the states where we are looking at this issue on the ballot right now,” noted Levin in reference to Maine, Minnesota and Washington voters who will consider same-sex marriage referendum and constitutional amendments in November. “That’s thanks to the effort that the president made with his announcement—reinforced last night here in Baltimore. That’s the work on the ground of our partners, our staff and all the people who worked so hard to get the bill passed.”
Levin further highlighted the contributions that he said Equality Maryland, the ACLU of Maryland, the Service Employees International Union and other organized labor groups have made to the campaign.
“The work that they bring to the table is incredibly valuable,” he said.
An unofficial count posted to the Maryland State Board of Elections’ website earlier on Thursday shows that officials have validated 109,317 of the 113,000 signatures that the Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted late last month. The organization needed to collect 55,736 signatures by June 30 to prompt a referendum on the issue.
“We can be the first state in the country to pass this on the ballot,” said Levin in response to a question about whether he feels other states’ marriage referendums and Obama’s re-election campaign will prompt donors not to give to the Maryland effort. “We need help to get there and we want to make sure that we can be successful here and in other states. I hope that Maryland can help chart the way.”