September 18, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Last week, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group campaigning to pass Question 6 in Maryland this November, released a memo to the media that argues against three of the most common tactics used by anti-marriage equality groups like the National Organization for Marriage. These tactics have been used by NOM and others in states like California to successfully stymie equal marriage rights efforts, but this year, Maryland’s equality advocates are playing offense.
The first argument is a response to NOM’s race-baiting strategy, outlined in a 2009 document that was leaked to the press, which involved efforts to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.” African-American voters make up about a quarter of Maryland’s electorate, so their support will be crucial to Question 6′s success this fall, and in order to counter this anti-equality tactic, Marylanders for Marriage Equality is highlighting the many high-profile black leaders who have come out in support of the measure: Ravens football player Brendon Ayanbadejo, NAACP chairman emeritus Julian Bond and religious leaders like Rev. Delman Coates.
The second anti-equality strategy, used to such dispiriting success in California, tells voters that a yes vote on marriage equality would mean that schoolchildren would be forced to learn about gay and lesbian couples marrying. Rev. Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, wrote in August that “Maryland parents who send their children to public schools are immediately asking how does this [same-sex marriage] affect what is taught in schools.”
As Marylanders points out, this claim was debunked by Politifact when NOM sent fliers to Rhode Island voters last year bashing marriage equality efforts in the state legislature. Also, in Maryland, as the campaign’s media memo notes, curricula are decided by local school districts. ”Teachers and parents decide what is taught in the classroom,” the memo reads, “and no state law – including the marriage question on the November ballot – changes that.”
Finally, Marylanders for Marriage Equality states that groups like NOM will likely try to persuade voters that the wording of the ballot measure has been created to intentionally confuse voters, and that it doesn’t provide full religious protections. (This is despite the fact that the initiative’s wording clearly states that it “protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs” and “affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith.”)
As the marriage equality campaigns in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota, we’re likely to see anti-marriage equality groups trot out the same debunked, fear-based attacks that they’ve used in the past. Quite frankly, the reason they use them is because they work. It’s good to see an equality group like Marylanders for Marriage Equality pushing back and making the argument for equality before anti-gay activists can start spreading division amongst the electorate.