American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Battleground State Profile: Maryland

In a four-part series, we look at the history of efforts in each state with a marriage ballot measure, current polling and how you can get involved.

There have been close calls with marriage in Maryland going back about a decade.

In 2004, there was a lawsuit against the state’s existing marriage ban that won in Maryland Circuit Court, but lost in the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state’s high court) in Conaway v. Deane. During that time, anti-marriage activists tried and failed to pass constitutional bans on marriage equality.

In 2008, the state passed severely restricted partnership recognitions — about a dozen rights that include hospital visitation and funeral arrangements. Following that, there were failed attempts to legalize marriage equality through the legislature in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

The year 2010 was something of a turning point, when Attorney General Douglas Gansler said that the state should recognize out-of-state marriage licenses.

The following year, a marriage equality bill passed the Senate 25-21, but the House of Delegates killed it in committee. It was just a few votes short of the 71 needed to pass.

That close call prompted supportive lawmakers and organizers to redouble their efforts. Marylanders for Marriage Equality launched a 6-month strategic plan to strengthen governance, improve development, engage the public, and extend programming in late summer of 2011. Not long after that, the organization began to model a campaign after the successful work in New York, and organized a lobbying day in October of 2011. Governor Martin O’Malley pledged to take an active leadership role in promoting a marriage equality bill, and true to his word he recorded a supportive video and raised money.

In January of 2012, Governor O’Malley introduced the “Civil Marriage Protection Act.” Hearings and testimony soon followed. In February, the Judiciary Committee and the Health & Government Operations Committee jointly heard and passed the bill, 25-18.

The bill passed the House of Delegates by 72 to 67 votes in February, and then the Senate by 25-22.

But before the bill could become law, anti-marriage groups gathered signatures to force it to referendum. They were successful, but at a price: they’re now nearly $90,000 in debt, mostly to signature-gathering firms.

Current Polling

The polling in Maryland has moved considerably over the years. In January of 2004, only 35% favored marriage equality and 58% opposed. By October of 2011, 48% supported marriage equality to 49% against. By March, that support had risen to 52%, and in May it was at 57% to 37% — a complete flip from where it was in 2004.

What You Can Do

Marylanders for Marriage Equality is leading the campaign to protect the new law.