.- A month after the state of Maryland approved a bill to legalize “gay marriage,” local initiatives to block the legislation through a November referendum are fully underway.
“People are very passionate about this issue,” said Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. “We are working hard to win this.”
McCoy told CNA on April 3 that the alliance has worked “feverishly” over the past few weeks to develop petition drives and train people to run them.
The alliance is leading a referendum campaign, joining with the Maryland Catholic Conference, the Maryland Family Alliance and other national and local groups of different political and religious backgrounds to defend the dignity of marriage.
On March 1, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill to legalize “gay marriage” in the state of Maryland.
The legislation had previously been passed by the House of Delegates, in a process that critics described as coercive and heavily influenced by special interest groups.
It was then rushed through the Senate, where it was narrowly approved by a three-vote margin after only 48 hours of deliberation.
Maryland is the eighth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.
However, an amendment included with the bill to allow for its passage delays it from taking effect until Jan. 2013.
This allows time for marriage supporters to bring the law to a vote of the people through a referendum in November.
In every state where the issue has been put before the citizens, marriage has been upheld as the union of one man and one woman.
McCoy explained that current efforts are focused around “getting signatures for marriage.”
Almost 56,000 signatures will be needed to put the measure on the ballot in November, although the alliance believes that it was easily collect far more than that.
After having its petition cleared by the Board of Elections, the alliance began working to ensure that people are “well-informed” about the issue and have the opportunity to make their voices heard.
More than a dozen sites throughout the state are being used to distribute petitions, and county coordinators are helping to schedule training sessions, which have prepared more than 1200 people to conduct petition drives in the last few days alone.
These training sessions will continue, and petition drives will be held in full force after Easter.
McCoy said that the response so far has been both positive and energetic.
“Around the state, people are engaged,” he said, explaining that the overwhelming response during the debate over the legislation has carried over after its passage. Thousands of voters requested petitions within days of the bill’s approval.
“It is clear that while the opponents of marriage have been seeking influence from an elite group of politicians and supporters, the average citizens of Maryland continue to believe in the time-tested, unalterable definition of marriage,” commented Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
In a statement when the referendum campaign was announced, she explained that the conference believes its partnership with the efforts of the Maryland Marriage Alliance places it in the best position “to win for marriage in November.”
McCoy said that work will continue in coming weeks to make sure that the measure is included on the ballot in the fall.
“We want to ensure that the people of Maryland have the opportunity to vote on this issue,” he said.