WASHINGTON -- A new poll has good news for marriage equality in Maryland, with a growing majority of state voters saying they would vote in November to uphold a state law legalizing same-sex marriage. Perhaps just as significantly, support among African-Americans voters has gone up in the past six months.
In November, Maryland voters will face a ballot initiative on the state's marriage equality law. On March 1, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed the law legalizing same-sex marriage, making Maryland the eighth state to recognize marriage equality. In June, opponents of the law gathered enough signatures to put the issue before voters.
The new statewide poll conducted by Hart Research Associates found 54 percent of Marylanders say they would vote for the law that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. Forty percent would vote against it. When they surveyed voters in March, 51 percent said they would vote for the law, and 43 percent said they would vote against it.
Hart polled 504 likely voters statewide from July 24-28. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Support has also gone up amongst African-American likely voters statewide. Hart additionally surveyed 515 of these individuals, who went from opposing the referendum to uphold same-sex marriage (40 percent to 49 percent) to being evenly divided between support and opposition in March (44 percent to 45 percent).
On May 9, President Obama came out in favor of marriage equality. A Public Policy Polling survey done two weeks after his historic announcement similarly found a "significant increase" in support for marriage equality among African-American voters. The shift was so significant that PPP determined that the increased support statewide for the issue could be "explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters."
Hart similarly concluded in a polling memo provided to The Huffington Post that "President Obama's strong affirmation of marriage equality has resulted in a durable shift in attitude among African-American voters."
A Washington Post/ABC poll also showed that black public opinion shifted after Obama's announcement, with 59 percent of blacks saying they backed same-sex marriage, an 18-point shift compared to polls leading up to the survey. PPP also released a poll showing an 11-point jump in North Carolina in favor of gay marriage among black voters following the passage of Amendment One, which banned gay marriage, domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Pro-marriage equality initiatives have fared poorly at the ballot box, with 31 states passing same-sex marriage bans since 1998, as recently as North Carolina earlier in May. (Arizona rejected a more expansive ban on gay marriage and domestic partnerships in 2006, but passed a narrower version in 2008.)
Question Hart asked voters:
As you may recall, the state legislature recently approved a law allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry in Maryland, and there is going to be a statewide referendum in the November election on whether to keep the law. If the election were held today, do you think you would vote FOR or vote AGAINST the recently approved law allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry?
Hart's polling memo:
Here are some reactions to Obama's marriage equality announcement:
"I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," Mitt Romney said.
"This is a major turning point in the history of American civil rights," said New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. "No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people - and I have no doubt that this will be no exception. The march of freedom that has sustained our country since the Revolution of 1776 continues, and no matter what setbacks may occur in a given state, freedom will triumph over fear and equality will prevail over exclusion. Today's announcement is a testament to the President's convictions, and it builds on the courageous stands that so many Americans have taken over the years on behalf of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, stretching back to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village."
"I applaud President Obama for announcing his support for marriage equality today," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) "For the first time in this nation's history, a sitting president has shown the courage and leadership to stand up for all American families by pledging to support the fundamental right of every person to marry the person they love, and to have that marriage fully respected. I commend President Obama for this brave and honest step. Those who seek to politicize civil rights for personal or political gain will certainly attack him, but the course toward marriage equality and justice is the correct and inevitable path."
"I'm thrilled!" longshot GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger told HuffPost, referring to Obama's embrace of marriage equality. Karger is the first openly gay Republican or Democrat to run for president. "The Karger pressure has worked," he joked. "Particularly after the defeat in North Carolina, we welcome him to the full equality position."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Chris Coons
"I have been blessed to have a long and happy marriage. I strongly believe all Americans deserve that same opportunity," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
"While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Christine C. Quinn
"Barack Obama just announced he supports same-sex marriage," Mike Huckabee wrote in a fundraising appeal to supporters. "Nancy Pelosi immediately jumped on the announcement and emailed Democrat activists nationwide promising to continue their fight. This is going to be a defining issue this election. Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats have been a complete failure on economic issues so now they are going to focus on issues that will rile up their base. Well, Mr. President it's going to rile up our folks also. Men and women who support traditional marriage."
Rep. Bill Taylor
"President Obama's support for marriage equality marks an important moment for civil rights in America," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who co-sponsored legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). "We simply can not treat same sex couples as second-class citizens in our country. Marriage equality is one of the most significant civil rights battles of our time and is critical to guaranteeing the equal protection under the law promised to every American in the Constitution. The President's support for marriage equality should inspire Congress, Governors and state legislatures to advance civil rights for all Americans."
Ann McLane Kuster
Sen. Patrick Leahy
"This is an historic moment and I applaud the President for his decision and courage," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. "One of the greatest and most liberating human emotions is acceptance. And what the President did today was accept that the quality of love two people share is more important than their gender. The President's decision required him look within and engage his heart. It is truly wonderful and welcome news."
Senator Patty Murray
"As an early and strong proponent of Marriage Equality, I am very happy that President Obama has made this announcement," said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) "Marriage Equality is a matter of basic human rights and all of America's same-sex families are now closer to having their unions recognized by our government. This is an important step in our country's march toward achieving true justice and equality for all."
"President Obama's public support for marriage equality is an historic affirmation of the fundamental American value of equal rights for all," said Howard Dean. "Having signed the nation's first law allowing Civil Unions as Governor of Vermont, I'm also proud to see our president affirm the belief that I and so many other Americans hold: loving and committed couples should have the same benefits that are extended through marriage. Marriage equality is a right and a benefit to all families."
Senator Ben Cardin
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Senator Dick Durbin