The excitement that followed Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s public signing of the state’s marriage equality bill was tempered by the threat of a referendum that will likely require state voters to determine the law’s fate.
Right now is the calm before the inevitable storm. Opponents of the law are gathering the 55,000 or so signatures they need, mostly by targeting churchgoers who are being urged by pastors to sign the petition. It seems unlikely they will fail in that signature-gathering effort. Meanwhile, the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition of local and national supporters is working to reorganize and hire someone to lead the campaign to preserve the law. The road ahead is daunting and will require a massive fundraising effort at a time when LGBT money is already needed for Obama’s re-election campaign, Tammy Baldwin’s U.S. Senate bid and marriage initiatives in a handful of other states. Make no mistake: the national network of LGBT donors is stretched thin.
The national advocacy group Freedom to Marry has invested in Maryland in the past, but announced last year that it would take a pass this time around. Evan Wolfson, the group’s president, told the Blade, “Freedom to Marry has made it clear to members of the coalition and to lawmakers that our goal is to win, not simply to pass a bill, if there is not sufficient groundwork and investment in a campaign to win at the ballot. We have continued to press for clarity and progress on benchmarks for success, and have urged elected officials, national organizations, and advocates on the ground to show the plan, investment, and activities needed now to build public support and succeed at the ballot, not just the legislature.”
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