The Maryland Marriage Alliance needed to collect 55,736 valid signatures by June 30, and was required to submit a third of them -- about 18,000 -- by May 31. Instead, it submitted 113,000 signatures Tuesday (May 29), all of which it said were valid.
The impressive number could bode well for traditionalists who are trying to place a referendum on the November ballot that would overturn the state's gay marriage law, which passed the legislature and was signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley earlier this year. The law is on hold while traditionalists challenge it. Elsewhere, traditionalists in Washington state are on track to submit more than enough signatures in early June in their attempt to overturn a gay marriage law there.
Maryland is known as a left-leaning state, but the new law nevertheless is in danger thanks to strong opposition from churches. Last year, opposition from black pastors was critical in defeating a gay marriage bill in the legislature. It squeaked through state Senate this year, 25-22, days after it was approved by the House of Delegates, 72-67.
Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said President Obama's public support for gay marriage only helped the signature drive.
"This incredible accomplishment has been possible because of our diverse partnership of allies that includes community organizations and faith-based groups from all ethnic, religious and geographic segments of the state," McCoy said in a statement. "Support for the referendum was strong from the beginning and has only intensified once President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage."
The signature drive will continue until the end of June, McCoy said, in order to "give more voters the opportunity" to join the effort.
The alliance includes the Maryland Family Alliance, the Maryland Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage.
Redefining marriage, the alliance has argued, will have negative consequences on the family. Historically, marriage has been tied to the traditional family because society has viewed that relationship as the best one to raise children, the alliance says on its website.
Legalizing gay marriage "says to children that mothers and fathers don't matter" and that any "two 'parents' will do," the alliance says.
"It proclaims the false notion that a man can be a mother and a woman can be a father -- that men and women are exactly the same in rearing children," the alliance said. "And it undermines the marriage culture by making marriage a meaningless political gesture, rather than a child-affirming social construct."
Redefining marriage also would impact what is taught in schools and would negatively impact businessmen and businesswomen who oppose gay marriage, the alliance website says.
"Refusal to accommodate and recognize same-sex 'marriages' would be the equivalent of racial discrimination," the alliance website says. "Not only will the law penalize marriage supporters, but the power of government will work in concert to promote this belief throughout the culture."
Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., was one of the pastors urging his members to sign the petitions.
"We are trying to defend an institution that has stood the test of time all the way back to the book of Genesis," Anderson told Baptist Press earlier this year.
Citizens in Minnesota also will vote on the definition of marriage in November, deciding whether to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. For more information about the debate over marriage in Maryland, visit MarylandMarriageAlliance.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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