June 13, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Speaking at a campaign fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Maryland, President Obama yesterday urged the state’s voters to uphold a recently-passed marriage equality law that will be up for a referendum on the November ballot. According to an unofficial count on the Maryland State Board of Elections’ website (updated yesterday), over 109,000 signatures in support of the referendum have been validated, around twice the 55,736 signatures required by state law.
“We’re moving forward to a country where we treat everybody fairly and everybody equally, with dignity and respect,” Obama said at the event. “And here in Maryland, thanks to the leadership of committed citizens and Gov. O’Malley, you have a chance to reaffirm that principle in the voting booth in November. It’s the right thing to do.”
As we’ve written about before, Obama’s expression of support for marriage equality has caused a dramatic shift in polling on the subject in Maryland. An ABC News/Washington Post poll after Obama’s announcement showed an 18-point increase in support amongst the state’s African-American community, and a PPP poll found that 57 percent of the state’s voters would vote to uphold the law.
To be honest, Obama’s outspoken and frequent support of marriage equality in the month after his announcement supporting equal marriage rights is much more engagement that I thought we would see from the President. When the Obama administration chose not to support an executive order on employment non-discrimination, I suspected that the move was in preparation for a later announcement of support for marriage equality. But I thought Obama would come out for marriage in a low-profile way, and would steer clear of making it an issue in his campaign.
In the month since Obama’s ABC News interview, though, we have seen quite the opposite response. The Obama campaign changed the front page of its website to reflect the President’s new position and emailed supporters asking for donations while specifically referencing marriage equality. And Obama has continued to speak out on issues of marriage equality referenda across the nation. Whereas before, Obama had to walk the tightrope of opposing marriage bans without explicitly endorsing marriage, he can now make the more authentic argument that marriage bans and referenda overturning marriage equality legislation are wrong because they keep rights from couples that deserve them. The President’s support could make all the difference for marriage in a state like Maryland, and it’s refreshing to see him standing up and speaking out on the issue.