Md. gay marriage opponents say proof is in petitions

Boxes of petitions to get same-sex marriage on the ballot in Maryland sit outside the office of the Secretary of State. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON – Opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland say they know how residents really feel about the state’s law allowing gay couples to wed, and they’ve collected the signatures to prove it.

Members of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a coalition of faith-based organizations, Tuesday stacked boxes filled with 113,000 signatures on petitions in front of the office of Maryland’s Secretary of State.

The signatures are being submitted in an effort to put the state’s same-sex marriage to a vote in November.

Under Maryland law, more than 55,000 signatures are needed to bring an issue to a referendum. The group was required to submit one-third of that number by Thursday, and said the fact that they’ve collected more than double the number for final submission shows the strength of their position.

The Rev. Derek McCoy, speaking for MMA, said 12,000 of the signatures come from Montgomery County, where support for same-sex marriage was strong among members of the county’s legislative delegation. Only one Montgomery County lawmaker — Delegate Sam Arora, a Democrat — opposed the measure.

McCoy said more than 13,000 signatures were collected in Prince George’s County, and a final breakdown of the numbers was to be released later.

While opponents of same-sex marriage chanted “Let the people vote,” supporters — represented by the group Marylanders for Marriage Equality — watched from across the street.

The Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, speaking for the group, said it was no surprise that opponents collected an abundance of signatures, but remained confident the same-sex marriage law will stand. He cited a poll commissioned by his group that shows Marylanders support same-sex marriage by a 57-37 percent margin.

“We’ve also seen a demonstrative move in the direction of support for marriage equality in the African-American community,” Flournoy said. “Historically that is an area that needed to see some growth, some movement — we’ve seen that growth.”

But Bishop Angel Nunez, with MMA, said while personal opinions may shift, “my God does not change.”

“And his commandments do not change,” Nunez said. “He is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Gay marriage opponents say they have a public goal of 150,000 signatures and will continue to collect them. The petitions being submitted are subject to validation and final certification before the issue can be put on the ballot.

Maryland’s same-sex marriage law was passed during the last legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley, who supported it. The law would not take effect until January 2013.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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