If, that is, the law can survive a probable voter referendum. Opponents of the law, which narrowly passed both houses of the Maryland legislature last month, have already begun a petition campaign to get the referendum on the November ballot. They need 55,736 valid signatures by June 30. They say they will gather 100,000. Language used while they are gathering signatures was approved by the state's board of elections Wednesday.
The opponents include The Maryland Marriage Alliance, mostly comprising African-American church leaders, the Maryland Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage. The coalition got a boost when the local Fox TV station in Baltimore posted a prominent link to its web site.
Derek McCoy, executive director of the MMA, said petition-carriers will ask Marylanders attending church services for signatures as early as this Sunday. In November, the state's Roman Catholic bishops sent a 16-page statement to churches urging parishioners to reject the marriage-equality bill, which they claim threatens religious liberty. McCoy said supporters of marriage equality "have been seeking influence from an elite group of politicians and supporters" but "the average citizens of Maryland continue to believe in the time-tested, unalterable definition of marriage."
Unalterable, of course, if you ignore the experience of billions of people over the millennia.
Sultan Shakir, campaign manager for MME, said in a statement, "We're fortunate to be riding a huge wave of momentum as we enter the referendum process. There is still a lot of work to do over the coming months, but we think voters will ultimately agree that all children, no matter who their parents are, should be protected under the law. Marriage equality is about building strong, stable families."
Foes would not tell reporters how much they plan to spend in their campaign to overturn the law, but supporters told the Baltimore Sun they expect to spend more than $500,000 to uphold it.
Both sides expect the results of referendum to be close. A Washington Post poll in January found 50 percent of Marylanders support letting gay and lesbian couples marry; 44 percent are opposed. That's a steady improvement since since 2004 when a poll found only 35 percent in favor, with 58 percent opposed. There are sharp differences along lines of religion, age and race.
Update 2:11 PT: The Governor is speaking now.
Update 2:15 PT : The bill is signed!