Mary­land ho­mo­sex­ual-mar­riage foes may play pe­ti­tion card

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID HILL

Sup­port­ers of same-sex mar­riage in Mary­land have quickly shaken off their de­feat in this year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly and re­or­ga­nized for an­other drive. But op­po­nents say they are equally ready if a bill passes in 2012 and could em­ploy a pe­ti­tion drive sim­i­lar to the one that will likely force a ref­er­en­dum on the state’s re­cently passed Dream Act.

“I don’t think you can use a pe­ti­tion drive for ev­ery is­sue that goes down the road,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader An­thony J. O’Don­nell, Calvert Repub­li­can. “But any­thing that pushes the en­ve­lope and gets peo­ple’s hot but­tons pushed, the po­ten­tial is there, and it’s real.”

The pe­ti­tion drive against the Dream Act, which would al­low in-state tu­ition rates for many il­le­gal im­mi­grants, had gath­ered more than 100,000 valid sig­na­tures as of July 13, nearly twice the num­ber needed to sus­pend the law and send it to a Novem­ber 2012 ref­er­en­dum.

Or­ga­niz­ers at­tribute their suc­cess in large part to of­fer­ing an on­line pe­ti­tion, which ac­counted for about one-third of the first 47,000 val­i­dated sig­na­tures and helped make the ef­fort Mary­land’s first suc­cess­ful statewide pe­ti­tion drive since 1992. Bal­ti­more to an­nounce they have formed a coali­tion for the 2012 leg­isla­tive session that in­cludes such groups as Equal­ity Mary­land, Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union In­ter­na­tional, Catholics for Equal­ity and the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign.

Equal­ity Mary­land, which

“I don’t think you can use a pe­ti­tion drive for ever y is­sue that goes down the road,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader An­thony J. O’Don­nell, Calvert Repub­li­can. “But any­thing that pushes the en­ve­lope and gets peo­ple’s hot but­tons pushed, the po­ten­tial is there, and it’s real.”

If the assem­bly le­gal­izes gay mar­riage, op­po­nents could patter n their ef­for ts af­ter the Dream Act drive, which used a web­site and a grass-roots vol­un­teer cam­paign to col­lect sig­na­tures greatly ex­ceed­ing or­ga­niz­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions.

Ho­mo­sex­ual-mar­riage sup­port­ers held a rally July 12 in led this year’s un­suc­cess­ful ef­fort, has since trimmed its staff, gained sup­port from na­tional ad­vo­cacy groups and has drawn inspiration from the New York Leg­is­la­ture’s pass­ing a same­sex mar­riage bill last month.

Equal­ity Mary­land hopes to im­prove upon last year’s ef­fort, in which the bill eas­ily passed the Se­nate, but hit un­ex­pected prob­lems and died in the House when some Demo­cratic lawmakers with­drew their sup­port.

The bill gained sup­port from only one Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tor and failed largely be­cause of a lack of sup­port from mod­er­ate Democrats and black leg- is­la­tors from so­cially con­ser­va­tive, church-go­ing dis­tricts.

Sup­porter hope to broaden sup­port and have asked Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley, a Demo­crat, to be­come more en­gaged and fol­low the lead of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Demo­crat who vo­cally led a suc­cess­ful ef­fort to win over so­cially conser- va­tive party mem­bers and some Repub­li­cans.

Mr. O’Mal­ley was crit­i­cized this year for be­ing too quiet, but he has in­sisted he spoke pri­vately with many leg­is­la­tors about the bill. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say the gov­er­nor ex­pects to be more ac­tive next year and is even con­sid­er­ing spon­sor­ing a ho­mo­sex­ual-mar­riage bill.

O’Mal­ley spokes­woman Raquel Guil­lory said the gov­er­nor is firmly be­hind gay mar­riage and hopes to “de­cide quickly” on whether to spon­sor the bill.

She es­chewed pre­dic­tions from some po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts that Democrats are tak­ing a risk by push­ing gay mar­riage, be­cause a pos­si­ble ref­er­en­dum on the is­sue could fur­ther en­cour­age con­ser­va­tive turnout at the polls next year.

“The ad­vo­cacy groups have fo­cused, re­or­ga­nized and have come up with a stronger plan to get this done,” she said. “We want to make sure that we come up with a plan that best ensures pas­sage.”

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