The Washington Post’s John Wagner and others have reported on the fact that changes in the Maryland State Legislature seem to augur well for enactment of a gay marriage law. Further, Senate President Mike Miller (a gay marriage opponent) has agreed to let such a bill be voted on in the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley has stated that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.
I agree that all of these things are likely to occur. However, I think that gay marriage will ultimately be settled not by the legislature but at the ballot box, just as was the case with three other mega-issues which dominated Marylanders’ attention at different times during the past two decades: gun control, abortion, and gambling.
State law allows a recently passed law to be the subject of a 2012 ballot referendum, pending the outcome of a successful petition drive. If that happens – and I think it is likely – then the fate of gay marriage in
becomes far more difficult to predict. Maryland
Washington Post polling done in May demonstrated that, while attitudes seem to be moving in a direction supportive of gay marriage, only a bare plurality (46 to 44 percent) of Marylanders support it. Neither side presently has the numbers needed to coast to an easy victory. The winning side will be the one that wins the voter intensity battle, ultimately delivering its supporters to the polls. Right now, I think you can make a case that – based on recent history and Maryland's demographics – opponents of gay marriage may have an advantage.
voters passed Proposition 8, which effectively banned same sex marriage. Exit polling done on election night found that 70 percent of black voters supported the ban. A study performed by opponents of Proposition 8 concluded that, “black support for Proposition 8 can largely be explained by African Americans’ higher levels of religiosity—a characteristic strongly associated with opposition to same‐sex marriage.” California
While black voters comprise about seven percent of California’s population, they make up nearly 30 percent of
’s population. Governor O’Malley’s stronger-than-expected performance in the 2010 gubernatorial race was partially a result of the strong support he received from a black electorate surging in importance. Black voters will play a similarly critical role in determining the outcome of a gay marriage referendum. Maryland
It is also important to note that the strong network of black churches in
Baltimore City and ’s County could play an important role in both waging a successful petition drive, as well as mobilizing opposition to the gay marriage law. Further, President Obama will likely be at the top of the Democratic ticket – just as he was when Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 – giving black voters further impetus to vote. Prince George
Exit polling also showed that another reason Proposition 8 passed was because 53 percent of Hispanic voters backed it.
Maryland, of course, has far fewer Hispanics than does (37 percent). But a little more than one in five Marylanders is Catholic. In 2008, 64 percent of Catholic voters supported Proposition 8. If you factor in orthodox Jews, Republicans and conservative-leaning independents, then the building blocks of a coalition sufficient to stop gay marriage from becoming law in this most liberal of states seem to be in place. California
In 2008, state voters settled a multi-year conversation about the future of gambling in
. Once the state’s budgetary woes have been addressed, gay marriage is poised to be the next topic to dominate the debate over the next two years. So, regardless of where you stand on the merits of the issue, it is clear that any action which the legislature takes is a sideshow to the very public, very emotional battle which is ultimately coming. Maryland