The long road to marriage equality in Maryland

On November 6, the ACLU of Maryland joined supporters across the state in waiting with bated breath for word on whether the Civil Marriage Protection Act would be approved by voters. Then, jubilation! Maryland voters had approved Question 6 and said "yes" to marriage equality! 

 

But the full story of this great marriage victory began long before the 2012 legislative session and referendum campaign. The journey to marriage equality in Maryland has taken years, and, with your faithful support, the ACLU is proud to have been there every step of the way - from making arguments in the courtroom, to testifying at legislative hearings, to engaging members through communications and field campaigns. We were able to accomplish all of this because of you - our incredible team of staff, board, members and supporters - together with our coalition partners. 

 

In 2004, the ACLU filed Deane & Polyak v. Conaway, a lawsuit on behalf of nine couples and a widower seeking state marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Maryland. The case, brought in partnership with Equality Maryland, sought to give gay and lesbian couples the legal protections they needed to care for their families, particularly in times of illness and hardship. When the state's highest court denied protections recognition for those families, we all were crushed. But we had come too far to give up, and so the battle moved to the General Assembly. 

 

The ACLU fought for years alongside our partners to build support and garner votes for the marriage bill. In 2006, the ACLU of Maryland and Equality Maryland joined with African American supporters to found the Maryland Black Family Alliance (the MBFA), a first-in-the-nation group of straight African-American leaders who believed in marriage equality in addition to supporting other issues important to the Black LGBT community. Together, we consistently worked to ensure that the voices of supportive African-American Marylanders were engaged in both the legislative battle and the referendum campaign. 

 

In 2012, the Civil Marriage Protection Act - which allows same-sex couples to obtain state marriage licenses while protecting religious liberty - was finally passed, thanks to a coalition effort and the leadership of Governor Martin O'Malley and our champions in the General Assembly. When foes of fairness immediately moved to challenge the new law by referendum, the ACLU worked with key elected officials, the Human Rights Campaign, SEIU, and Equality Maryland - the Marylanders for Marriage Equality - which became the 200+ organization-strong coalition needed to claim defend our victory at the ballot. 

 

Because of members and supporters like you, the ACLU was able to dedicate massive resources toward realizing this day. The ACLU of Maryland and the national ACLU value our contribution to the marriage referendum effort at over $500,000 - over half a million dollars. This includes $50,000 to the NAACP National Voter Fund for positive radio ads reaching African-American audiences and over $144,000 that the ACLU raised by partnering with our members and supporters and their networks to host over 100 house parties, which informed and engaged over 1,700 attendees and garnered over 1,000 volunteers. 

 

The ACLU also led the campaign's state-wide college organizing effort which enlisted student groups and activists who registered students to vote and engaged them in marriage equality efforts - organizing rallies and marches with elected leaders and coordinating large get-out-the-vote efforts through college student phone banking, on-campus canvassing, and social media. 

 

On Election Day, the ACLU adopted 16 polls where more than 100 volunteers braved the cold to share one last "FOR 6" message of fairness and equality with voters before they cast their ballots.

 

Now, thanks to your help, we celebrate the turning tide on marriage equality nationwide! Two other states - Washington and Maine - joined Maryland as the first to pass marriage equality at the ballot. And Minnesota became the first state to reject a constitutional amendment banning marriage licenses for same-sex couples at the ballot box. We are truly in a historic moment. The ACLU was on the ground for all of those fights, and will be again in the next round of states that take up marriage equality, and as we carry this momentum to the Supreme Court.

 

The ACLU is proud of our unique capacity to bring so many different types of expertise to the table in campaigns like this one.  We also benefit from our powerful and ever-growing infrastructure that has not only statewide reach but also critical nationwide expertise and experience. Finally, the ACLU is always humbled to work alongside such strong partners in coalition. Bringing together diverse partners is critical to advancing equality, fairness and dignity.

 

Together, let's take a moment and appreciate this better world we have created.

 

Then let this victory energize us for the other civil rights and liberties battles ahead, both in Maryland and nationally. Join with us - become an ACLU member today.

 

Yours in liberty and equality,

 

Susan Goering

Executive Director

ACLU of Maryland

Comments

- The Reverend may have made you tear up, but these photos have deifliteny made me tear up. They are beautiful, and capture all of the love present. Incredible. Standing ovation for you guys out here from Edmonton. Congrats also to these couples! I just can't even say enough about these photos. Well done you two.

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