Maryland voters vote on November 6 on Question 6, which both establishes civil marriage for same-sex couples, and religious protections for religious institutions opposed to it. If it passes, Maryland could be the first state in the nation to approve marriage equality by popular vote on a ballot question (similar measures are on the ballot in Maine and Washington). The Maryland legislature passed a marriage equality law last spring, and opponents petitioned for the ballot question on which voters will decide.
The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which is against marriage equality, is the first group out with a television ad, and it features Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, an apparent effort to counteract Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has more prominently, and more—what’s the right word?—coolly come out for marriage equality.
The Ayanbadejo video is web only, but take a look:
Ayanbadejo appeared last night at a fundraiser for Marylanders for Marriage Equality with Democratic Governor (and Catholic) Martin O’Malley, where the pair playing foozball became the iconic image of the evening. Also last night, actor Josh Charles, a Baltimore native, one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive, and supporter of marriage equality, threw out the first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles playoff game against the New York Yankees. (All in all, a fine night for Charm City.)
What’s more, Marylanders for Marriage Equality has been compiling a great deal of religious support for the measure, both from clergy and from rank and file Catholics, as I reported here. Numerous religious organizations and congregations are partnering with Marylanders for Marriage Equality, and are actively promoting their support for Question 6.
What’s striking about the Birk television ad, is how, even though Birk is Catholic, it doesn’t mention religion or religious freedom. Amongst marriage equality opponents, such as at a closed door meeting a few weeks ago in Baltimore, religious freedom is a rallying cry (even though the law contains ample protections for religious objection). At that meeting, William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ point man on religious freedom, called the referendum “misleading” and a “threat to marriage.”
In the ad, Birk merely says, “we don’t need to redefine marriage,” which when you think about it, is sort of weak sauce. (As the Baltimore Sun editorialized, Birk’s concern about the well-being of children should compel him to support, not oppose same-sex marriage.) And although marriage equality supporters warned last month that opponents would use “misinformation, race baiting and negativity,” there’s no downfall-of-civilization talk here. That’s either a sign that opponents sought to make those warnings seem histrionic or, more likely, that organizers think that gathering-storm-like arguments aren’t going to work in Maryland:
Political organizations supporting and opposing ballot questions in Maryland must file reports on their contributions and expenditures Friday, which will reveal more about how much money each side has, and where it’s coming from. Meanwhile, a Sun poll from September found support for the measure running ahead of opposition by 10 points, including a dramatic shift in the attitudes of black voters,” with “more than half of likely black voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with a quarter who are opposed.
UPDATE: After I posted this, I saw that Marylanders for Marriage Equality have begun running an ad in the Baltimore television market, featuring the Rev. Donte Hickman of Southern Baptist Church, and emphasizing how it protects religious freedom: