Pro-marriage activists in Maryland have gathered 162,000 signatures, almost three times the number required, to force a referendum this fall on the state's law allowing same-sex marriage. Maryland is the latest of four states that will vote this fall on the issue.
The state's Democratic-controlled General Assembly legalized same-sex marriage in March and the law is slated to take effect in January 2013. If the referendum fails, Maryland could be the first state to institute homosexual marriage by legislation rather than by court order.
On July 10 the Board of Elections notified the Maryland Marriage Alliance that it had approved 109,000 of 122,000 signatures checked at that point, far more than the roughly 56,000 required, and wouldn't bother checking the other 39,000.
Maryland Marriage Alliance is supported by Maryland Family Alliance, the Maryland Catholic Conference, and the National Organization for Marriage. Volunteers collected signatures from every county in the state. The second highest number, more than 16,000, came from strongly Democratic Montgomery County, which is near Washington, D.C.
Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, told The Baltimore Sun that President Barack Obama and the NAACP energized opponents with public statements of support for same-sex marriage: "Every day we have had more and more momentum."
Spokesmen for both sides have promised an aggressive campaign that will cost millions of dollars. Kevin Nix, spokesman for same-sex activist group Marylanders for Marriage Equality, told The Washington Times, "We're planning on running a full-court press here."
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Three other states will vote on same-sex marriage this fall. In Maine, voters will decide on an initiative to approve same-sex marriage three years after a referendum overturned a law passed by the Maine Legislature. In Washington, Referendum 74 would repeal the law allowing same-sex marriage passed in February. And in Minnesota, voters will decide whether to pass a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.