Opponents of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on Monday submitted additional signatures needed to prompt a November referendum on the issue.
The Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted 39,743 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Annapolis—these are on top of the 113,000 signatures in support of the referendum that the organization submitted late last month. Opponents of the law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March needed to collect 55,736 signatures by Saturday to prompt the vote.
An unofficial count posted to the Maryland State Board of Elections’ website on Friday showed that officials have validated 109,313 of the 113,000 signatures.
“As we expected, our opponents met the legal signature threshold and the Civil Marriage Protection Act will be on the ballot this fall,” conceded Josh Levin, campaign director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, in a press release shortly after the Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted the additional signatures. “Since all Maryland families deserve the dignity and respect that marriage brings, we’re focused on building a smart, strategic campaign to amplify and mobilize the 57 percent of Maryland voters who support the new same-sex marriage law. Committed, loving gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly under the law.”
The Maryland Marriage Alliance pointed out in a statement to the Blade that it has submitted a total of 162,241 signatures in support of the referendum.
“In spite of what our opponents will say, these incredible numbers clearly show that Marylanders strongly reject the idea of redefining marriage,” said the organization. “The Maryland Marriage Alliance and our diverse coalition of partners are confident that this momentum will continue. In November this issue will be settled in our state and the definition of marriage will remain a union between one man and one woman.”
O’Malley spokesperson Raquel Guillory stressed to the Blade that these additional signatures are “not unexpected.”
“The majority of Marylanders support marriage equality,” she said, referring to the same poll that Public Policy Polling released last month to which Levin pointed. The PPP poll also found that 55 percent of black Marylanders support marriage rights for same-sex couples. “There is still more work to do as we head towards November and we are not taking anything for granted.”
President Obama and Benjamin Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are among those who have urged Marylanders to support nuptials for gays and lesbians in the expected November referendum.
The additional signatures come a day before O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) will co-host a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser in Ocean City. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attended a marriage equality fundraiser on Sunday at a private home in Baltimore that raised about $20,000 for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
“We have been planning for a long time for a referendum and are well along in our efforts to secure a victory for fairness and equality at the polls in November,” gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) told the Blade. “However, this should be another wake up call for our community and allies to come forward to support the campaign with time and money. We will win this effort only with the active support of the gay community.”
Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson agreed.
“With the freedom to marry on the November ballot, it’s very important that people all across the state join with Marylanders for Marriage Equality to engage in conversations, raise money for the campaign, and turn out voters to defend the law and secure for loving and committed couples the chance to share in the joys and security marriage brings to families and the community,” he said.