WASHINGTON -- Mormons are gathering signatures to bring a referendum on Maryland's marriage equality law to the ballot in November, as the state's pro-gay marriage coalition hires a new leader and a recent poll shows more support in Maryland for the law.
The Washington Blade reports that Mormon Church members are actively working to overturn the law legalizing same-sex marriage that was signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley in March, making Maryland the eighth state to legalize gay marriage. Maryland's law will go into effect in January 2013, if the state's voters don't repeal the law in November.
The Blade published an email sent to Mormons in D.C. and southern Maryland, asking for help gathering 200,000 signatures to bring a referendum on the law to Maryland voters in November -- here is an excerpt from the email:
As you have probably heard, the Maryland legislature passed a same sex marriage bill last February. A coalition of inter-denominational churches throughout Maryland has joined together to try to get a referendum on the November ballot that would allow the residents of Maryland to vote on this bill before it becomes law. Martha Schaerr, who is a member of the LDS Church, is organizing signature collection within Montgomery County and within the LDS Church.
We need to collect approximately 200,000 signatures by the end of May. We are looking for people to gather signatures within the LDS community. If you are willing to help with this important effort please contact Martha Schaerr as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org or Teressa Wallace at email@example.com.
Mormon Church officials told The Blade that it is not involved with the referendum effort -- but The Blade finds parallels between the Maryland effort and the Church of Latter-day Saints' efforts in California:
Dale Jones, an LDS spokesperson, said the church has no direct involvement in the effort to overturn the marriage law in Maryland.
“While the Church’s position in support of traditional marriage is well established, the effort in Maryland is not being organized through the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City,” Jones said. “Members, of course, will make their own decisions regarding their involvement in local issues.”
But the message recalls the Mormon Church’s lead role in passage of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. The First Presidency of the Church, or its governing body, publicly backed the initiative and reportedly encouraged members during church services to take an active role in contributing money and get-out-the-vote efforts to support the ban’s passage.
Meanwhile Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition that helped pass and is now working to uphold Maryland's gay marriage law, appointed a new campaign manager on Wednesday -- The Baltimore Sun finds the hiring to be evidence that opponents of the law are very likely to collect the required 55,736 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the November ballot.
Josh Levin, a veteran political strategist is taking the job as the most recent poll numbers show growing support for the law among Maryland voters, according to The Sun:
The announcement of the appointment came as same-sex marriage proponents were touting the results of a poll by Hart Research suggesting that Maryland voters favor the new law by 51 percent to 43 perecent. That is a wider margin than suggested in most previous polls.
The Washington Post's latest poll reporting, at the end of March, showed Maryland voters nearly split, with opponents feeling more strongly opposed to same-sex marriage than supporters feel in favor.