Randee and Josh, a gay couple living in Columbia and raising two young sons, were taken aback when they had the opportunity to review the names and addresses of people in their neighborhood who signed the petition to force the issue of marriage equality to the ballot in November.
“Just found out that our next door neighbors of 10 YEARS signed the Civil Marriage Petition to repeal the change coming in Maryland. A sad day,” Randee posted to his Facebook page.
The Washington Blade obtained a database of the names last week from the public record and posted them to its website.
Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane of Woodstock, Md. — the first openly gay office holder in the county — was stunned by the list. “As any of us looks through this list I think we’ll receive a wake-up call to just how much work we have to do to win at the polls this November,” he told the Blade. “It really is disappointing to see so many people we know on this list. Personally, finding that aunts and uncles and my own father had signed was very upsetting. My hope is that over the next few months we’re able to tell our stories and talk to them about love and commitment and win their votes.”
Marriage advocates from around the state who have reviewed the list of more than 113,000 names are discovering similar surprises by noticing family members, neighbors and co-workers have signed the petition. Their reactions have ranged from resignation to sheer anger. People in the heart of traditionally gay neighborhoods, such as Waverly and Charles Village, are included among the petitioners as are a large number of folks from normally progressive areas in Howard and Montgomery counties.
“Apparently a lot of people didn’t realize their signatures would be made public,” noted Bob Ford of Clarksville. “This brings into question the validity of recent polling data.”
Activist Gerry Fisher of Baltimore sees the revelation of the petitioners as an opportunity. “I think it’s worthwhile asking them if they’d be open to sitting down over coffee and chatting about each other’s families,” says Fisher. “If they say yes, then they are ‘in the moveable middle.’ If they say no, move on. The real ‘tragedy’ would be to let this list distract us from having persuasive conversations with those in the moveable middle, because it’s those people who will determine this election.”