October 11, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
TV ad wars begin over Md. marriage referendum
Delman Coates, Mount Ennon Baptist Church, Maryland, marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. Delman Coates joined fellow pastor Rev. Donté Hickman in making pro-marriage ads, while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley joined Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for a pro-marriage equality event this week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ads in support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law began airing on a Baltimore television station on Tuesday.

The two 30-second Marylanders for Marriage Equality ads on WBAL feature Rev. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton in Prince George’s County and highlight that Question 6 would not force religious institutions to perform nuptials for gays and lesbians.

“As a pastor, my support for Question Six is rooted in my belief that the government should treat everyone equally,” says Hickman. “I wouldn’t want someone denying my rights based upon their religious views, so I shouldn’t deny others based upon mine. It’s about fairness. I support this law because it does not force any church to perform a same-sex marriage if it’s against their beliefs. And that’s what this is about: Protecting religious freedom and all Marylanders equally under the law. Join me in voting for Question 6.”

Coates, who spoke at a D.C. press conference last month with Rev. Al Sharpton and other black clergy who publicly back Question 6, had a similar message.

As a pastor, my support for Question 6 is rooted in my belief that the government should treat everyone equally,” says Coates in the ad. “I would not want someone denying my rights based upon their religious views, therefore I should not deny others based upon mine. It’s about fairness. This law does not force any church to perform a same-sex marriage if it’s against their beliefs. And that’s what this is about. Protecting religious freedom and protecting all Marylanders equally under the law. Join me in voting for Question 6.”

Federal Communications Commission records indicate that Marylanders for Marriage Equality has purchased more than $500,000 worth of airtime on Baltimore and D.C. television stations through Election Day. Pro-Question 6 radio ads featuring Julian Bond, chair emeritus of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, began airing in both the Baltimore and Washington media markets on Tuesday.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, the group opposed to Question 6, has also bought more than $90,000 of airtime on local television stations through Nov. 5. The group’s first ad aired on Monday.

“Marriage, the union of a man and a woman, has served society well for thousands of years,” says the Maryland Marriage Alliance ad. “Marriage is more than what adults want for themselves. It’s also about the next generation. Marriage provides children the best chance of being raised by a mother and father. While death and divorce too often prevent it, children do best when raised by their married mom and dad. Everyone is entitled to love and respect, but nobody is entitled to redefine marriage. Vote against Question 6.”

Ayanbadejo, O’Malley thank supporters

In related news, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo came together Monday night at a Baltimore bar to meet and thank supporters of the state’s marriage equality law.

Ten winners were chosen in a raffle for the opportunity to meet O’Malley and Ayanbadejo in a small group setting at Mother’s bar in Federal Hill. Some of the winners seemed surprised by the crush of photographers and TV crews that awaited Ayanbadejo, who arrived with his family, including two small children.

Ayanbadejo, who has made headlines for several years as an outspoken supporter of marriage equality, told reporters that he views the fight as the next chapter in the advancement of civil rights in America. His teammate, center Matt Birk, caused a stir last week when he announced his opposition to marriage rights for gay couples in two videos produced in conjunction with the referenda battles in Maryland and Minnesota, Birk’s home state.

“I haven’t talked to Matt about it,” Ayanbadejo said, noting that his kids play tennis and participate in gymnastics with Birk’s kids.

O’Malley, dressed casually in a fleece and sipping a beer on a chilly and wet Baltimore night with the Orioles playing the New York Yankees in a playoff game just blocks away, greeted Ayanbadejo as he arrived. Ayanbadejo told the governor that he follows him on Twitter, to which O’Malley replied that he’s been following the Raven on the gridiron.

Ayanbadejo, who has garnered national attention for his marriage support — a relative rarity among active NFL players — later told the Blade that he is tentatively headed to California during the Ravens bye week later this month to appear on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show. He said the lesbian host has mentioned him a couple of times on her show and invited him to appear as a guest.

O’Malley spoke briefly to reporters, reiterating his support for marriage equality. He signed the marriage bill into law in March; it was later petitioned to the November ballot. Recent polls show growing support for the law, though the opposition’s TV ad campaign just began this week and a Baltimore Sun poll showed that 10 percent of voters remain undecided.

In remarks to the Blade, O’Malley said he wasn’t concerned about the impact of another referendum — a measure to expand the state’s gaming law — on the marriage fight. Some advocates have expressed concern that casino companies spending tens of millions of dollars to turn out conservative voters who object to gambling on religious grounds could have a negative impact on the marriage referendum.

“I don’t see that,” O’Malley told the Blade. “I see the airwaves being more crowded but I don’t see one impacting the other.” He added that West Virginia gaming interests are working to “keep Maryland from being competitive” by opposing the gaming expansion, something O’Malley aggressively pushed for.

O’Malley also applauded Ayanbadejo’s support for the marriage law.

“It’s great to see him stand up for equality,” he said.

Gallagher speaks out

The co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage stressed on Tuesday that marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.

“I’m here today to urge you to join with your friends and neighbors and your fellow citizens to vote no on Question 6 precisely because I do not believe that gay marriage is a civil rights issue,” said Maggie Gallagher, who lives in Montgomery County, during a League of Women Voters’ panel on the Nov. 6 referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law at Morgan State University. “Marriage has existed not just in the state of Maryland but all over the globe for thousands of years as a union of male and female for a simple reason: These are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mother and their father. Marital unions have that capacity.”

The debate took place at the historically black university shortly after Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group supporting Question 6, unveiled its first television ads.

“The question is whether or not we as a state are going to continue to treat all people in the state of Maryland — citizens of Maryland — equally and fairly under the law. And that’s what Question 6 or ballot Question 6 is all about,” said state Del. Keiffer Mitchell (D-Baltimore City) who spoke on behalf of Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “It’s about treating all our citizens fairly and equally under the law. What Question 6 does is simply allow gay couples to go to a court house to file to receive a civil marriage license in order to be married.”

A Baltimore Sun poll released late last month shows 49 percent of likely Maryland voters support the state’s same-sex marriage law, compared to 39 percent who oppose it with 10 percent undecided. A Gonzalez Research poll released earlier in September indicates 51 percent of Marylanders would vote for Question 6, compared to 43 percent who would oppose it.

The same survey noted that 44 percent of black Marylanders back nuptials for gays and lesbians, compared to 52 percent who oppose same-sex marriage.

Mitchell noted that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage after President Obama publicly backed the issue during an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts in May. The NAACP of Maryland and the civil rights organization’s Baltimore City and Prince George’s County chapters have also urged their members to support Question 6.

Kevin Naff contributed to this report.

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

1 Comment
  • This battle is reaching a crucial stage, and it could be very close. Air time is so important right now, and that costs money. If you can help, do so.

    Marylanders For Marriage Equality

    You can make a contribution at its website. Look it up on Google or any other search engine.

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