Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday said he felt confident going into Election Day that the referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law would pass.
“I had a pretty good sense in the course of those last 10 days that it was on a good positive trajectory,” he told the Washington Blade, recalling how delayed election results from Montgomery County prompted Marylanders for Marriage Equality not to declare Question 6 had officially passed until more than four hours after the polls had closed. “Once we figured that out then I started breathing a little more deeply. And then when the Montgomery County numbers came in and we were up to 51 [percent,] the night seemed to be coming into perspective.”
Question 6 passed by a 52-48 percent margin with Montgomery County voters supporting it by nearly two to one. Baltimore voters backed it by a 57-43 percent margin, while Question 6 lost in Prince George’s County by less than 4,000 votes.
O’Malley told the Blade he feels one of the campaign’s turning points came when Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton and Rev. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore publicly supported the law he signed in March.
“There are lots of differences of opinion among clergy about this issue — and some are in favor of civil marriage equality, some are opposed,” said the governor. “For those guys to not only come to the conclusion personally and as citizens that civil marriage equality is the right change of law, but also to be willing to step up and speak to that in a public way allowed us to have a much more positive dialogue than the usual fear-based frames that have doomed these referenda in other states in the past.”
O’Malley also cited President Obama’s public support of marriage rights for same-sex couples during a “vulnerable election year” as another turning point for the pro-Question 6 campaign in Maryland. The governor also applauded him for statements in support of both nuptials for gays and lesbians and the Dream Act that will allow public colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants during the Democratic National Convention.
The governor played an increasingly important role in Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraising efforts in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
He headlined a star-studded New York City fundraiser gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman co-hosted on Sept. 13 that raised more than $100,000 for the pro-Question 6 group. The governor also attended an Oct. 2 fundraiser for Marylanders for Marriage Equality that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.,) lesbian state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) and others attended at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s Washington home.
O’Malley spoke at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Chefs for Equality” fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom on Oct. 25 that raised funds for the group’s pro-Question 6 efforts.
“We had a very good campaign by the end,” he said. “We continued to grow and evolve and become stronger every day. And it was a very well-run campaign. Josh Levin[ campaign director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality,] did a good job.”
When asked whether gays and lesbians were visible enough during the campaign, O’Malley said the pro-Question 6 television and radio ads that ran in the Baltimore and D.C. media markets were “very effective.”
“The ads, through a variety of different voices, got across the message that this is a timeless American truth that we should protect rights of all individuals equally while protecting religious freedom,” he said. “The thrust behind the ads was to make this a question that can and should be supported by all people — gay and straight, black and white, believers, non-believers, people of all faiths. With limited dollars that’s what we attempted to do. If we had more money perhaps we would have been able to run a greater variety of ads, but we were smart and strategic.”
O’Malley further stressed he feels gays and lesbians were “well-represented” in the campaign and among its leadership that included state lawmakers. He was reluctant to comment on whether the Washington Blade should have published the names of those who signed the petition in support of the referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law.
“I don’t know that I’m qualified to comment on journalistic ethics,” said O’Malley. The Blade published the list to its website in July; the Baltimore Sun followed and published the list in October.
The governor also sought to downplay growing speculation about the possibility he will run for president in 2016.
“I’m running mostly to get some more sleep and some more time with my family lately,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to these next two years because with the president’s re-election we’re going to be able to solidify some important strides forward on health care and public safety and moving our state to the other side of this recession. So those are all the things I’m thinking about. I haven’t really given any thought to 2016.”
O’Malley further joked he “never had to be quite the multitasker as” he was during this election cycle. Question 6 and the three other referenda he supported passed. O’Malley also chairs the Democratic Governors’ Association.
“We won five of our six contested races and even won back Puerto Rico, which no one thought would happen. We came close in Indiana,” he said. “I’m still in the gratitude mode. I’m focused on the making the next two years the most effective they can possibly be for this administration that I lead.”