Governor Martin O’Malley’s prognosis on the future of Question 6: we’re making progress, we need more money
September 25, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Last night, I had the opportunity to participate in a press call with Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, and Governor Martin O’Malley, who has been a key figure in the ballot campaign to approve Question 6 and protect the marriage equality law passed by the state legislature earlier this year. There were two big takeaways from the evening’s call: first, the campaign is doing well and Question 6 looks like it has a fair shot of being approved by the voters, and second, the campaign has a good deal more cash it has to raise before the election.
Governor O’Malley started the call by pointing to the factors that could lead to a success for marriage equality in Maryland, touching first on the ballot language, which includes thorough protections for freedom of religious conscience: in fact, the question’s language has four main clauses, three of which pertain to religious protections. This clear language, O’Malley and campaign manager Josh Levin said, provides Question 6 some protection from two of the tactics marriage equality opponents often use during ballot campaigns: first, that equal marriage laws will force clergy members to violate their own beliefs, and secondly that the language of the ballot measure is being used to obfuscate the true intention of the law.
The other cause for optimism in Maryland is the polling: a poll from early August showed voters support the measure by a 54-40 margin, although neither side expects the final vote to show such a lop-sided margin. Levin said last night that the campaign fully expects the numbers to tighten as ads start going up and the election nears, but added that current polling shows Question 6 within one point in the mid-40s when it comes to black voters, the best numbers any marriage equality campaign has seen. (Black voters make up about a quarter of the state’s electorate.) In addition, the measure polls at around 30 percent with Maryland Republicans, some two times the amount of support it has gained in other states.
But, as always, campaigns take money, and Governor O’Malley admitted that the Vote for Question 6 side still needs “another couple million dollars” before election day. Julie Bolcer of The Advocate asked the campaign what the plan is to raise the extra $2 million, to which Governor O’Malley pointed out that Maryland isn’t California or New York (states with expensive media markets) and that the goal is feasible. Josh Levin also chimed in that the majority of the campaign’s money is coming from inside the state. When pressed by the Washington Blade‘s Michael Lavers, Levin declined to share how much the campaign had raised, to which O’Malley responded, “Oh really?” The governor then added, “We’re beyond the 50-yard line and we continue to move forward, not back.”
The 2012 election is a high-risk, high-reward one for marriage equality. We could see four states stand up for the marriage rights of gay and lesbian citizens, or we could see our opponents add four more states to their already impressive winning record. But it’s important to take a step back and note the importance of what makes this year different. Marriage equality advocates are defending equal marriage laws that have already passed two state legislatures. Voters will be given the opportunity to vote yes on ballot measures that would provide equality, not no on ballot questions like Prop 8 that would take them away. And a sitting governor is taking a strong leadership position in the campaign to bring marriage equality to his state. There’s much work to do in the next month and a half, but 2012 already shows that this movement is making, and continues to make, great strides.