August 20, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Maryland officials release ballot language for same-sex marriage referendum
Martin O'Malley, gay news, gay politics

Governor Martin O’Malley (Blade photo by Pete Exis)

The Maryland Secretary of State’s office on Monday released the language of the same-sex marriage referendum that will appear on the November ballot.

Question 6 will ask voters to vote for or against the Civil Marriage Protection Act that “establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

“The wording is accurate and straightforward and will serve as another way to educate voters” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “This referendum is about equality under the law and protecting religious freedom, and we know the more people know about this issue the more they support it. Voter education is what’s fueling our momentum.”

Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, the group that collected more than 160,000 signatures in support of the referendum, criticized the language.

“This is a transparent attempt by the Secretary of State to bias voters to be in favor of the legislation, but it’s an attempt that will backfire,” he said. “Voters will be inherently suspicious of any description that goes to such lengths to say what supposedly isn’t impacted, rather than deal forthrightly with what obviously is impacted. Maryland parents who send their children to public schools are immediately asking how does this affect what is taught in schools. Business owners have a right to know if their personal opinions about same-sex marriage will find them in violation of the law. It’s a classic ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ moment that will make it easier for us to bring attention to the profound consequences of redefining marriage.”

A Hart Research Associates poll conducted between July 24-28 noted that 54 percent of state voters would vote for the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March, compared to 40 percent of respondents who said they will oppose it. A Public Policy Polling survey in May noted that 55 percent of black Marylanders support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

 

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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