Opponents of same-sex marriage announced Tuesday that they have gathered enough signatures to meet the Maryland's requirement to put the issue before voters in November, but the group plans on collecting more names before the final deadline.
The Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted 113,505 signatures to the secretary of state Tuesday afternoon.
The deadline for filing one-third of the 55,736 signatures needed to put a ballot before voters in November's general election is Thursday. The balance of the signatures must be submitted by the end of June.
“The number we turn in today does not include the thousands we collected this weekend, does not include the thousands that still remain sitting in our offices,” said the Rev. Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. “By the next turn-in date [June 30], we will not only reach our petition goal [of 150,000 signatures], we will probably exceed that goal.”
In February, the General Assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill championed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). The bill, which extends full marriage rights to gay couples in the state, takes effect Jan. 1, if the referendum is unsuccessful.
Montgomery County, which had only one of 32 elected officials vote against the marriage equality bill, accounted for more than 10 percent of the signatures submitted Tuesday, McCoy said.
Whether black voters would support the referendum in November was a key part of the discussion Tuesday.
“When President [Barack] Obama and the NAACP comes out and they want to support this issue, great. We appreciate that because you helped energize our crowd,” McCoy said. “People that were on the fence are no longer on the fence.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the media event to voice disagreement.
“The truth of the matter is that African-Americans have turned around, and the majority of African-Americans, 55 percent, support marriage equality following President Obama and the NAACP's expressed support,” said the Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, faith director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “Those signatures and the collection of those signatures does not reflect the growing momentum of Maryland voters. Our opponents have lost ground.”
He pointed to a poll released this past week by Public Policy Polling that showed 57 percent of Maryland voters — and 55 percent of black voters — would uphold the law, compared to 37 percent of those polled who said they would support the referendum to strike it down.
Equality Maryland on Friday unveiled a new “55 for 55” campaign based on the poll, asking supporters to donate $55 to honor the percentage of black voters supporting same-sex marriage.
Across the country, legalizing same-sex marriage will be on the ballot in Maine, and banning it will be on the ballot in Minnesota. In North Carolina, a referendum passed this year to ban gay marriage and domestic partnerships.
Supporters also are collecting signatures for a ballot question banning same-sex marriage in Washington state, where lawmakers voted to approve same-sex marriage in February.
When put to a referendum, voters in the U.S. never have upheld a state law legalizing same-sex marriage.
“We've won 32 states and we intend to win the state of Maryland also,” said Bishop Angel Nunez, of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore, at the Maryland Marriage Alliance news conference. “Let the people vote.”