Gay-mar­riage-bill foes plan­ning pe­ti­tion drive

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID HILL

AN­NAPO­LIS | Gov. Martin O’mal­ley will sign his state’s same-sex mar­riage bill into law on Thurs­day, but an ef­fort to repeal the leg­is­la­tion and send it to a Novem­ber ref­er­en­dum is un­der way.

Op­po­nents of the bill, which would make Mary­land the eighth state to le­gal­ize gay mar­riage, said Wed­nes­day they hope to re­ceive state per­mis­sion as soon as next week to be­gin cir­cu­lat­ing a pe­ti­tion to sus­pend the leg­is­la­tion.

Pe­ti­tion­ers would have un­til June 30 to col­lect 55,736 val­i­dated voter sig­na­tures to force a statewide ref­er­en­dum. How­ever, the state Board of Elec­tions and state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral must first ver­ify that the lan­guage in the pe­ti­tion sat­is­fies all Mary­land laws.

The pe­ti­tion ef­fort will be led by a group of House law­mak­ers and the Mary­land Mar­riage Al­liance, which lob­bied heav­ily against the bill. Or­ga­niz­ers filed their pe­ti­tion with the state last week.

“If we can get it printed by [next] Sun­day, we’ll be in churches on Sun­day,” said Derek Mccoy, the al­liance’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

Law­mak­ers on both sides of the is­sue have ac­knowl­edged that the gay-mar­riage law will likely go to ref­er­en­dum in Mary­land, where re­cent polls have shown res­i­dents are split al­most evenly on the is­sue.

Gay-mar­riage op­po­nents will bor­row a page from last year’s suc­cess­ful pe­ti­tion ef­fort against the Mary­land Dream Act, which gath­ered more than 100,000 sig­na­tures in op­po­si­tion to the bill. It would al­low many col­lege-aged il­le­gal im­mi­grants to pay in­state tuition rates.

The ref­er­en­dum ques­tion is al­ready on the Mary­land bal­lot, and the one on gay mar­riage could be added if the pe­ti­tion drive is suc­cess­ful.

Last year’s drive owed much of its suc­cess to mdpe­ti­tions.com, a web­site that al­lowed res­i­dents to down­load and dis­trib­ute their own copies of the pe­ti­tion.

Del­e­gate Neil C. Par­rott, Washington Re­pub­li­can, led the ef­fort and said this year’s drive will in­clude a down­load­able pe­ti­tion that will be made avail­able on the Mary­land Mar­riage Al­liance’s web­site.

Pe­ti­tion sup­port­ers said there is wide con­cern about gay mar­riage and it stretches be­yond po­lit­i­cal, racial and re­gional boundaries.

“Al­low the peo­ple of Mary­land to have their voices be heard,” said Del­e­gate Jay Walker, Prince Ge­orge’s Demo­crat. “I think that’s a ba­sic prin­ci­ple of gov­ern­ment and what the peo­ple have sent us here for.”

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