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Despite Polls, Same-Sex Marriage Opponents In Maryland Not Backing Away

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In this Feb. 17, 2012 file photo, Zachariah Long, left, and Edward Ritchie protest against a gay marriage bill in Annapolis, Md.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this Feb. 17, 2012 file photo, Zachariah Long, left, and Edward Ritchie protest against a gay marriage bill in Annapolis, Md.

This is the fourth in a weeklong series on the ballot questions facing Maryland voters Nov. 6. The first part outlined the advertising battle over Question 7 on gambling expansion in the state, the second part explored the heart of the debate over Question 4 on in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants, and the third tackled Maryland's proposed redistricting map.

After being narrowly defeated in 2011, the Maryland General Assembly approved same-sex marriage during its annual session earlier this year. As part of the agreement to get the bill passed, it does not take effect until Jan. 2013, after a public referendum could be held.

That referendum is on the ballot next month, and polls show Maryland voters poised to become the first in the country to give referendum approval to same-sex marriage in their state. Less than two weeks from election day, however, the matter is far from decided, at least according to Derrick McCoy, the head of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which is the leading the fight against same-sex marriage.

"I think they call it the Bradley Effect could very well come into play here in Maryland," say McCoy. "Where, people aren't necessarily as clear in polls as they are at the ballot box. Privacy of the ballot box is quite different than that of a poll."

The polls on same-sex marriage in Maryland also show something else: most people already have their minds made up on the issue. Only 5 percent remain undecided, according to the latest Washington Post poll. While there may not be many voters left to be swayed by final argument, McCoy still has plenty left to say to them.

"Marriage is more than just what any two adults want," says McCoy. "It's about the future, it's about generations. It's about an understanding where, quite honestly, we can love and accept our gay and lesbian colleagues, friends and family members, but we don't have to redefine marriage. And for us, that is essential."

McCoy says provisions in the bill legalizing same-sex marriage that prevent churches from having to conduct such unions if it's against their religious beliefs offer nothing new.

"Pastors are not forced to marry anybody today," says McCoy. "You don't need that bill to institute that. You don't have that going on in our society, in our culture, or under Maryland state law today. It just talks about it clearly, but it gives you the first amendment rights that are already there."

And even if voters approve same-sex marriage in Maryland, McCoy predicts the issue is never going to go away.

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