Anti-Gays Prepare to Overturn Maryland’s Gay Marriage Legalization, Save World From Apocalyptic Doom

Yesterday Governor Martin O’Malley signed a legislative bill that legalized gay marriage in Maryland. This makes Maryland among the seven states (eight if you include D.C.) that have legalized gay marriage — currently the list includes Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont. While the bill was just signed, same-sex couples won’t be able to acquire marriage licenses until January 1, 2013.

Maryland’s gay marriage odyssey has come a long way, and unfortunately it’s not over yet. In early 2011, it was thought that Maryland was going to legalize gay marriage after a gay marriage bill made it to the Senate and moved through the House Judiciary Committee. But suddenly in March of 2011, the bill was sent back to committee which, according to Gawker, “effectively kill[ed] its chances for passage” in the 2011 legislative session.

ANNAPOLIS, MD - MARCH 01: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (C), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (L) and House Speaker Michael Busch (R) sign the state's recently passed same-sex marriage bill into law during a ceremony at the Maryland State House March 1, 2012 in Annapolis, Maryland. The law is expected to face a referendum in the November election before it goes into effect in January, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) via latimes.com

It wasn’t until last month that the two houses of Maryland’s General Assembly approved gay marriage, and the bill finally was signed by Democrat O’Malley. While this is amazing, it isn’t over yet — many of Maryland’s religious groups have been incensed by the signing of this bill and have already drafted a ballot referendum to overturn the gay marriage bill, according to the Huffington Post. Gay marriage and the civil rights of US citizens will likely be up for popular vote in November, which as we’ve historically seen, hasn’t ended well.

“It’s sad to me that anyone would think that it’s okay to put up the rights of a minority to a popular vote, ” said Lisa Polyak, a chairwoman for the gay civil rights organization Equality Maryland, according to the Associated Press. “We have children, we have lives, we have jobs and we just want to go about them with integrity.”

Many people, including gay marriage advocates, are expecting the referendum to end up on the ballot. The main organization begun gathering the 56,000 signatures needed in order to make sure of this is Maryland Marriage Alliance, an “interfaith coalition,” according to its website, that seeks to overturn the gay marriage law. The MMA is associated with — you guessed it — the National Organization for Marriage.

Rep. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, top left, stands with other openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signs the state's same-sex marriage bill into law. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) via wamu.org

While it might seem like a losing battle already, whether or not the referendum passes with the popular vote has a lot to do with the voting turnout for this November’s presidential elections. Donald Norris, department of public policy chairman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore county, mentioned that “a number of factors could tip the vote on a referendum … for example, a weak Republican presidential candidate could mean conservative voters stay home and don’t cast ballots against the law,” he said, according to the AP. And while “churches could heavily influence the referendum … liberal voters who come out to support Obama’s re-election could offset the votes against same-sex marriage.”

According to the AP, another factor in whether the referendum passes has to do with the “African American church leaders [who oppose] gay marriage in … [a] state that’s nearly one-third black,” The LA Times interviewed Reverend John Lunn, a pastor at a Baltimore church and head of a group of Baptist ministers, who believes the gay marriage law will be overturned with this referendum for this reason: “African Americans view marriage as between a man and a woman; that’s all we know,” he said. “That’s because of the strong religious background that’s involved in our nature.” Studies have shown that 79% of African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56% of U.S. adults overall.

However, it’s still a sweeping generalization, and a highly contentious and reductive one as well. After Prop 8 passed, racial minorities briefly became a scapegoat which served to both divide the gay community and mask the group who perhaps had more to do with the proposition’s passing than anyone else: Mormons. It’s particularly problematic when you realize that African-Americans only make up 6.2% of the California population. (Which is actually quite

“Party identification, religiosity and political view have much bigger effects than race, gender, or having gay and lesbian family and friends,” said the co-author of a study on the Prop 8 issue. Looking at racial statistics tends to simplify what is in fact a very complicated set of factors. For example, although early exit polls claimed that “over 70% of blacks voted for the constitutional amendment,” it’s far more telling that 70% of weekly churchgoers backed the same-sex marriage ban. The bulk of Yes-on-8 voters were Republicans, conservatives and older voters (80% of Republicans voted for Prop 8 and only 30% of Democrats), and a recent Gallup poll showed that whereas very religious white Americans are twice as likely to lean towards or identify as Republicans, the link between party identification and religion is far less linked amongst other racial groups.

Other studies have shown unlikely demographics played a more prominent role than previously assumed, such as white democrats with kidsAccording to the Public Policy Institute of California’s statewide survey, a combined 57% of Asian, Hispanic and African Americans voted yes on Prop 8. But obviously when you’re looking at the numbers of people who voted for a thing that passed, you’re going to find a majority of every demographic voted for the thing that passed, because that’s how math works.

Sen. Richard Madaleno (right) hugs Rep. Maggie McIntosh (center) and Rep. Mary Washington, all openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, Feb. 23, 2012. | AP Photo via politico.com

The effort to extend the pro-gay-marriage effort to minority groups is particularly important in the Maryland case, says professor Roger Sneed at the Furman University in South Carolina, who studies attitudes to homosexuality in the African-American community. He believes that one of the problems that occurred in Prop 8 was that “gay groups did not effectively ­­­make their case in black, Hispanic and Asian churches, leaving an opening for conservative Christian organizations.” Kevin Nix, a spokesperson for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, an organization that supports gay marriage, said the group will attempt to reconcile that gap this election cycle. With weekly churchgoing a major factor in views towards homosexuality, it’s worth noting that according to the Pew Forum; whereas 37% of Marylanders attend church weekly, only 33% of Californians do.

While the future looks bleak for Maryland’s gay marriage law, there’s still hope that more effective outreach to minority groups, and the popular sway of religious leaders who support gay marriage (including the several African American pastors that stood with O’Malley at the signing o the gay marriage bill, according to the AP), will help sway the effort. And with the issue of who comes out to the polls this November, there is still a chance that the referendum will not have an effect on Maryland’s stance on gay marriage. Hopefully things will end on a high note — as for now, all we can do is celebrate the passing of the gay marriage bill in Maryland and wait to see what happens.

Avatar of Whitney

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. She is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, where she studies video games and new media. She is also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out her blog at whitneypow.com and follow her on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 51 articles for us.

39 Comments

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      This comment is completely unacceptable. If you really are supportive of marriage equality, why would you blatantly and ignorantly accuse an entire group of having ‘bad’ marriages? These are EXACTLY the same tactics being used against the gay community. You should be ashamed of what you wrote.

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      That’s funny because last I checked the divorce in the US was pretty high across the board for every race. And whites and blacks are pretty evenly balanced in most marriage and divorce statistics.

      Oh, and to repeat myself yet again, there are racial minorities in the gay community. Gay does not equal white. Thanks for that bigoted generalization about an entire race of people though.

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      I don’t think this person was trying to “imply” anything about blacks and marriages even if that’s what it looks like…actually they may have been pointing out the irony that one group whose marriages were traditionally defined by those in power (white slaveowners, the US government before interracial marriages were legalized, etc.) might try to define another group’s. It was misguided, but I don’t think they were trying to say that black people’s marriages were not as good as white marriages or that divorce rates are higher for blacks, etc.

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        Even if that’s what she was implying(and I doubt it) it is still one hell of a generalization to assume that black people as an entire race are all against gay marriage and are the ones solely responsible for voting in favor of anti- gay laws. I could make the same generalization about white people, who still outnumber everyone else BTW and are the ones we by and large see in the media complaining about gay people and coming up with these bills in the first place. I could also generalize that Latinos who are largely catholic are also universally homophobic and vote yes on these bills too. I could but that would be stupid and unfair to an entire race of people.

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    Lets be bigger than this. This is a great victory. Let’s not ruin it by racial stereotypes. You can slant stats to show what you want. So if the divorce rate is high in whites does not mean they are incapable of staying committed? No.

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      More than that, rates of commitment DON’T MATTER. This is a right we’re talking about, not a privilege. Everyone gets it, not just the people you think are ‘better’ at it.

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    as a black kid in california whose friends and entire family voted no on 8
    this post has me feeling some kind of way about something.
    i think ill just list them out and see where this goes from here.

    1. …and the thinly veiled ‘blame black people for everything’ struggle continues. in various forms.

    2. just because the douchey church-going elders voted for this in large numbers doesnt mean the younger generation feels the same way. what it DOES mean is that the younger generation of black kids didnt show up to the polls that year; a study you can also look up. but please dont sit here and make it appear as if we are all against you… or that the numbers reflected in an election accurately represents an ENTIRE PEOPLE. i KNEW that shit was gonna be the worst thing about 8 passing. the fingerpointing and assumptions. *cough*2000 elections*cough*

    3. youre also ignoring that prop 8 passed at a 52% yes to 48% no… VERY thin margins.

    4. the thing about “making the case” is somewhat dismissive but VERY TRUE; please believe me, during that election year, the Mormon churches were sending their “soldiers” to other churches… both catholic and christian… to make the case against prop 8. and if they could not get INSIDE the church to speak directly to people, they would stake their claim outside and spread their propaganda from there. KNOW THIS. they basically played on the religion and fear on NOT JUST BLACKS… but asians and latinos… who make up a LARGE percent of california’s population. NOBODY PAID ATTENTION TO THAT SHIT. THAT SHIT IS MAJOR. LOOK IT UP.

    5. how are you gonna write a post about bullying and take (what feels like) all types of sideshots at a DIRECT group of people right now, whitney?

    6. Co-sign Salicet up there.

    oh im all kindsa confuddled right now
    i guess i should go write abut this.
    :|

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      It didn’t seem to me like Whitney was taking shots or blaming, but rather just reporting what the media is saying. But it saddens me that the media is turning this into a race issue, when it clearly has more to do with religion than race. And maybe a more critical analysis of that in this post would have been helpful.

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      hi! these are totally valid criticisms. i wasn’t the editor who read this particular piece before it was put up, but upon reading it this morning i completely agree with your discomfort over the way it was presented, ericka, and your call for a more critical analysis, chandra. so i have edited the fuck out of this article and i hope it’s better now.

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        I was very uncomfortable with the uncritical version that appeared earlier, thank you for being so responsive to reader criticism, and thank you to people like Ericka and Chandra for articulating what I was unable or afraid to say.

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        Oh Riese.
        You continue to be amazing and I thank you for it.

        I was actually kinda shocked to see it come down, and I am happy to see it back up… I know its a tough and touchy road to go down but Whitney has touched on some awesome points I would honestly LOVE to see addressed in the future. But I’ve never seen a website go through the lengths you guys just did to make sure everyone is comfortable. It speaks volumes of your brand and character and I’m honored to be here. Thank you for that.

        I love you guys and this place and I apologize for exploding all in your comments system.
        I can come off really bitchy. I promise I’m not. LoL.
        Autostraddle (and Whitney) are fucking amazing and Im pretty sure nothing you say or post can change that.

        *eHugs for all*

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          you had a right to be bothered by what seemed to be the unfair emphasis of the article. Why backtrack and apologize and accuse yourself of being “bitchy”?

          female (I assume you are?) assertion = good thing. embrace it.

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          i like what you did there.
          i really didnt mean it in a negative context. i just really didnt wanna come off all arguey and whatnot.
          you are right, assertion is awesome. i just dont wanna be an asshole.
          :)

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          yeah, but you didn’t come off that way at all. you changed the article! you, Turkish & Salicet deserve a standing ovation.

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      Hi Ericka —

      I feel horrible about the way this article ended up. Your opinions are incredibly valid, and I completely understand where you’re coming from and why you’re so angry. I wanted to make sure I got in touch with you to explain what was going on, and how I didn’t intend for this negative message about race and gay rights to be sent. I think the main problem is that because it was a news article, I kept my opinion out of the reporting and didn’t go into my own connection to this issue — I’m Asian American and all of those statistics about how people of color don’t support gay marriage affect me and my family, too.

      I was incredibly uncomfortable with major news outlets like the AP and the LA Times placing this racial minorities versus sexual minorities dynamic in their writing, and when I was writing this piece I was making sure to include sources that discussed this dynamic, but without my commentary it seems like the reaction was taken in a way I had not intended at all.

      It’s difficult to write about race when major news sources (and people who are not minorities) are making assumptions about your race and other people’s race as oppositional to an integral part of your identity. It completely erases the fact that queer African Americans, Asian/Americans and every other queer minority exists. And I think I had originally felt that by touching on this uncomfortable issue without letting my voice really be heard, people would make the same assumptions that I’m making — that this dynamic is uncomfortable and wrong — but the opposite happened.

      I wasn’t brave enough to get as personal as I would have liked with this article, and I’d like to apologize for that. I’d also like to let you know that forever in every single article I write in the future I won’t ever keep myself and my opinions out of articles like this because it’s damned important, and when I don’t speak about what really upsets me about race I end up letting myself and other minorities down. I hope this makes everything a little clearer, and thank you for commenting and reacting to this article — your opinion means everything.

      - Whitney

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        Yay for the editing. This is why this site is awesome (although obvs it’s not good that people were offended by the initial article)

        Hurrah for autostraddle and QPOC.

        I should really read the comment criteria rules thing,.. But – le meh. Later ;)

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        Whitney.

        Lemme start this off with a BIG eHug and apologies. I can come off craaazy angry sometimes and I am sorry if it felt like I blew up your well written article. I am happy to see it back and to have some awesome discourse with you about it. I really wasnt angry so much as I was just kinda sad and confuddled… I know that the elders (of all races) are an issue in getting some way and it hurts MY heart because I dont know how to change theirs. I just… dont want to see blame passed. What I want to see is us working together to get AROUND this issue. I just want understanding.

        Ah the media. Bane of the American “minorities” experience. I hated it too, when the numbers came back saying 8 had actually passed, and everyone wondered why and how? It was even MORE embarrassing when it came back with the numbers it did from older black and latin voters. Effectively, the blame game had started, and the older folk who technically where in the middle of the civil rights era were effectively to blame for it. I know the truth is the truth and thats what it is, but it was awkward and embarrassing to see those numbers, real talk. And when you see those stats come up again… it hits a nerve. Theyve been throwing shade out way regarding it since, and some of us want NOTHING to do with that statistic.

        Instead of focusing on our fail (and really, thats what it was), I wish we could have focused more on some other equally important things: like who didnt vote and why that year… and how we can keep it from happening again. Also, the issue of the rich republican douchebag thing is a MUCH bigger hurdle than old black folks. And even though 70% of black folks SEEMS like a lot, you should see how small our numbers were in the MIDST of that election, shit. Any election.

        As someone below me pointed out… Rich White Republicans had a POWERFUL hand in this… a point I elaborated earlier above. You would think you WOULDNT have to explain why you should vote no on 8 since equality is common sense… but you have to explain everything, or other people will do it for you. In comes the Mormon Churches and the same Rich Republicans you see “running for president” this year. Knowing they could play on religion and fear of the unknown, they went on a huge Yes campaign on 8… something else no one seems to talk about. And its not just in California… its in EVERY state. It had a huge influence, as well as their own numbers coming out to the polls in strength. So while older black people tend to get pointed out in the media, as usual… they do that to distract you from the REAL numbers and reasons why things didn’t pass. I dont want you to get caught up in that, OR believe the hype. There are a LOT of things that go into this.

        Also, there was only about a 79% turnout of voters that year. 21% of registered voters didnt show up, and that could have made all the difference. We need to focus on bringing that demographic out to vote in ALL states.

        Finally, I really do want to apologize for the doucheyness of my elders. It is a fact that that percentage did play a role in getting it passed. Regardless, know that there is progress being made, and not all of us are assholes. And not ALL older black folk (like my mom and dad) voted for that bullshit. With that said, I’d like to point you in the direction of Michael Eric Dyson on the Tavis Smiley show a few days ago, and listen to him make the unshakable case for gay marriage and aim it DIRECTLY AT the african american community. Its something that is being addressed… I promise you. Dont let the media outlets fool you.
        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1702406

        With all that ranted out that… It was still an awesome, well written article that celebrates PROGRESS being made and I came in here to par-tay. It was a great article, really well written. Its just… towards the end, it was a little uncomfortable. There are toooons of hurdles left for us to jump to get marriage equality going, and I can assure you the least of your worries will be my grandmothers generation. And I promise you, despite what the media tells you… we CAN work together to change this. Also, your opinion is valid and awesome in every way Whitney, and I am always glad to know what you think. Never censor yourself… but keep an eye out for how the media tends to manipulate things, and how that can effect you. Because it still happens. often.

        *eHugs*

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    Thanks for this list; I definitely didn’t realize how extreme the Mormon’s campaign was (although I really should have, in retrospect). That is some shit.

    It’s disappointing to hear people automatically blame this on black people because it’s easy- they can just point to the church and leave it at that. There is SO MUCH MORE at work, as you pointed out.

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      Yeah, I dont think anyone really realized how serious the Mormon church was about getting it passed… how much money they spent on it, the LENGTHS in which they went to get it passed. It was pretty outlandish and amazing, the propaganda that went out that year.

      After a while, you get used to the ‘blame black people for everything’ tactic the media (and republicans) tend to get on. However, if you usually dig deeper, youll find it really has nothing to do with us in the end.

      However, youre right. There is TONS of work to be done. And its bigger than the elders. I just dont want anyone to forget that.

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    “…many of Maryland’s religious groups have been incensed by the signing of this bill and have already drafted a ballot referendum to overturn the gay marriage bill, according to the Huffington Post. Gay marriage and the civil rights of US citizens will likely be up for popular vote in November, which as we’ve historically seen, hasn’t ended well.”

    In other words, it’s dead in the water. That sucks. The same probably goes for Washington state’s as well.

    To make things even worse, gay marriage might well be repealed in New Hampshire before the end of the month: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/us/gay-marriage-law-in-new-hampshire-may-be-revoked.html?_r=1

    Maybe we just put effort into destroying NOM; their efforts are wholly devoted to destroying us, after all.

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    I’m hoping Maryland and North Carolina siphon enough attention away from the National Organization of Repression for Washington to squeak by with a win, much like how Washington took a back seat to Maine in 2009.

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    Who put the most money and effort into getting Prop8 passed? Mormons, who are largely made up of white Republicans.

    Who goes on all the news channels every chance they get to demonize gay people and gay marriage? White Republicans.

    Who runs all of these anti-gay/pro-family organizations? Mostly white Republicans.

    Who are the real people in power who are constantly to get laws passed that negatively gay people? White Republican politicians.

    But let’s just ignore all of that and blame black people. By the way, the gay community has plenty of racial minorities in it that are also greatly effected by these laws so can we please stop acting like gay=white and it’s those damn minorities who are holding us back as a community.

    Love,
    A Black Homosexual

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        Obviously, i don’t have all the answers but I think we can all start by putting the blame where it belongs instead of using minorities as a scapegoat for these types of things like Dan Savage famously did. White people are still the majority in this country and if they were all pro-gay then we wouldnt even be having this conversation right now. Religious people seem to have the loudest voices and quite a bit of control in this country and that’s religious people of all races. Why are we as a country allowing them to have such power over the legislative decisions that effect all of us? I don’t care if they don’t believe in gay marriage. That’s their right but they shouldnt get to make decisions for the rest of us.

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    My roomie keeps going “Jade, hey Jade, hey Jade, you excited about gay marriage in Maryland yet? Are you excited yet? Are you freaking out yet?” and I keep trying to explain that, no, not at all, because following the politics of marriage is like being a New Yorker: in order to survive you must develop a bulletproof shell of cynicism and non-responsive behavior. I’ll be happy when we have been getting married here for a full year. Before then it’s too much of a heartbreak risk.

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    You still haven’t won a vote of the people. When the people get to vote on the issue of gay marriage, the issue is 0-31. Zero wins…thirty-one losses. The people are decidedly not on your side and you need activist judges and liberal state legislators to get your way. But, look what happened in New York. Those legislators who crossed up their constituents and voted for gay marriage, AFTER they said they would not support it, are gone. People don’t like being lied to about this issue. The gay lobby tells people all the time through their accomplices in Hollywood and the media that America is with them. 0-31 seems to indicate otherwise.

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    I appreciate the effort everyone has put into editing the article. I mean that. I’m not saying it to be polite. But I still don’t entirely understand the emphasis on CA statistics to make an argument about minority churches in Maryland.

    There seems to be this weird implicit assumption (plugging in Prop 8 stats, which are in no way relevant unless you use them to make assuptions based on race) that African-American voters are hostile voters. Like other posters have suggested, there are age gaps as in any other demographic, and the real issue could be the need to get the young to vote, regardless of their race or faith. Either way, I don’t grasp the use of CA exit polls in detrmining what MD might do.

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