The bill hasn't been signed yet, but opponents seeking to overturn Maryland's recently-passed marriage equality bill are already organizing in preparation for an expected referendum.
The marriage equality bill, scheduled to be signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Mar. 1, passed the Maryland Senate by a 25-22 vote one week after passing the House of Delegates by a similarly narrow 72-67 margin. Once signed, the bill would make Maryland the eighth state and ninth jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia, to recognize same-sex marriages.
In response, the Maryland Marriage Alliance, the chief organization opposing the bill, has asked supporters to request a petition to sign to force the measure onto the ballot. Their website states that petitions will be available in a few days. Other groups supporting a referendum to overturn the law include the Maryland Catholic Conference and a number of Maryland churches that oppose same-sex unions.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, for a referendum on a statewide law, those wishing to place it on the ballot must collect a number of signatures equal to 3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the preceding gubernatorial election by July 1. For 2012, that number is 55,736 signatures. Not more than half of all signatures may be from any one county or Baltimore City. Proponents of a referendum must submit more than one-third of the total number of signatures, or 18,579, by June 1.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition comprised of community, religious and civic groups that support the marriage equality law, has also announced they will be organizing an educational and engagement campaign to convince voters to support the law at the ballot box. Both supporters and opponents of marriage equality are expected to spend millions of dollars on a referendum campaign.
A recent Washington Post poll released in January showed that 50 percent of Marylanders support the idea of same-sex couples obtaining a civil marriage license, with 44 percent opposed.
Despite that, on the referendum backers' site, they state, "Against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of Maryland, the Legislature has voted to legalize same sex marriage. But the people of Maryland will have the final say on marriage as we have the right to referendum. Maryland Marriage Alliance has already filed to be the Official Referendum Proponents to allow the people to vote and restore marriage in Maryland."
Sultan Shakir, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, countered the Maryland Marriage Alliance's comments, saying in an 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."