Maryland is part of three other states that will be voting to allow same sex couples to be able to marry in 2012. The vote is part of a two other referendum successfully brought to ballot by Republicans in Maryland, led mainly by Delegate Neil Parrott and is in addition to 4 other questions that will appear on the ballot, including the expansion of gambling in Maryland.
The other three states that will be voting on gay marriage this year are Maine, Minnesota and Washington State. Gay marriage has never passed when on the ballot in the United States and Karl Rove successfully used the issue to draw conservative voters to the poll in many battleground states during the 2004 election. Public polls are showing though that 8 years later, same sex marriage is about to win in 3 of the 4 states, with Minnesota being the odd state out right now.
Maryland’s Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful), Doug Gansler, already decided that the State should recognize marriages between same sex couples from out of State despite State law saying that a marriage is between a man and a woman. The bill to grant the right to same sex couples was championed by Governor Martin O’Malley for the past two years and despite his initial pledge when he ran for office in 2006 that he wasn’t for gay marriage, he did turn that frown upside down and into a rainbow prior to his 2010 election and said he would sign a gay marriage. Of course he at that time said he preferred a civil unions bill, but then he became the main backer of a full gay marriage bill, a little outside of what he had originally promised.
But even Republicans have been supportive of this bill with Senator Allan Kittleman losing his leadership post as the Senate Minority Leader because of his belief in equal rights. Senator Kittleman supported the bill passionately in talking about how his father fought for civil rights and this was a continuation of this fight to a new generation. A pragmatist, Senator Allan Kittleman tried to grant civil unions to all and get government “out of the marriage business”.
On the other side though are the churches, social conservatives, and religions African Americans who had the sway to easily get the bill brought to referendum (originally an amazingly difficult thing in Maryland), but also get the bill amended so that it wouldn’t go into effect until after the election. The extremely Democratic controlled House of Delegates stopped the same sex marriage from passing in 2011, led by the flipping of African American Democrat Delegate Tiffany Alston. Delegate Alston changed her vote in 2012, after she was brought under investigation by the State Prosecutor for so many violations it would make your head spin.
The campaign for this referendum has largely been one of inside baseball; letters of prominent politicos in support of same sex marriage such as Bob Ehrlich’s chief of staff Chip DiPaula and the head of various local NAACP branches. They have also been raising large sums of money most likely for a barrage of ads right before the election targeting Maryland’s swing voters in this case: mainly African American voters that while are easily Democratic, feel uncomfortable with those on the “down low”.
Maryland is unlikely to see any large amounts of money dumped into this race from religious institutions like the Church of Ladder Day Saints was able to do in California mainly because public polling shows that it isn’t so competitive. Proposition 8 in California was a major victory for the traditional marriage side in that nobody thought it was possible, now the battle is going on in 4 vastly different states and the money will probably go to the one state where it is actually competitive.
There is the chance that Maryland polls are wrong. Maybe malaise will sidetrack the electorate since Maryland doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things and social conservatives and religious blacks will show up and sink the referendum. There is also the chance that when being polled Marylanders are lying to the pollsters because the media portrays those that believe in traditional marriage to be bigots and the elected officials will deny your business equal opportunity access because of your personal beliefs (I know, that one is pretty hypocritical on all sides).
But absent the type of shock that occurred in California in 2008, Maryland, Maine, and Washington State are going to stop the string of losses that gay marriage has had at the ballot box.