ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Marriage equality supporters are pleased with language approved by the Maryland State Board of Elections for the November referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law.
Josh Levin, Campaign Manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the statewide advocacy group working to pass the referendum, called the wording of the ballot question “accurate and straightforward,” and said it would “serve as another way to educate voters.”
In November, Maryland voters will vote to approve or reject the marriage equality law passed in the state legislature earlier this year and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
But opponents of the measure — the Maryland Marriage Alliance — collected more than 160,000 signatures to put the marriage equality law to a public vote.
The referendum, Question 6, will ask voters to vote for or against the Civil Marriage Protection Act.
According to the Maryland Secretary of State’s office, the language of the ballot measure will read:
[...] Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.
Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, criticized the language.
In a statement Monday to the Washington Blade, McCoy said, “This is a transparent attempt by the Secretary of State to bias voters to be in favor of the legislation, but it’s an attempt that will backfire.”
“Voters will be inherently suspicious of any description that goes to such lengths to say what supposedly isn’t impacted, rather than deal forthrightly with what obviously is impacted,” said McCoy. “It’s a classic ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ moment that will make it easier for us to bring attention to the profound consequences of redefining marriage.”
A July Hart Research poll shows marriage equality supporters have a 14-point lead, and election analysts and other experts agree the language matters a great deal.
“This referendum is about equality under the law and protecting religious freedom, and we know the more people know about this issue the more they support it. Voter education is what’s fueling our momentum,” said Levin.