A group opposing Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law is explicitly targeting the state’s black voters, invoking the civil rights movement to argue against marriage rights for gay families.
Jump the Broom for Marriages, a Baltimore-based ballot issue committee, objects to same-sex unions of any sort on religious grounds.
“God’s word states that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Alethia Williams, the group’s campaign manager. “That’s what our organization is about.”
Jump the Broom for Marriage takes its name from a traditional African-American wedding ritual that dates back to slavery, and its website defines the act as “the first civil right.” In the upcoming vote on the law, the black vote will make the difference, Williams said.
The group, which runs a call center out of Baltimore, has distributed more than 100,000 pieces of campaign literature, Williams said. The campaign is focusing on Prince George’s and Howard counties and Baltimore city, she said.
One promotional image, viewable on the website, declares “Gay Rights is NOT a Civil Rights Issue” and asks “Have you ever seen a water fountain for Gays only?” The statements are accompanied by a picture of a modern-looking water fountain with a paper “whites only” sign taped to it; the caption underneath reads, “A Real Civil Rights Issue!”
Maryland lawmakers approved same-sex marriage earlier this year, but opponents petitioned it to the ballot and voters will decide whether to uphold the law in November.
Recent polling suggests public opinion, particularly among black voters in the state, is moving in favor of the new law.
A Baltimore Sun poll, conducted by OpinionWorks and released this past weekend, found 58 percent of black voters in the state support same-sex marriage, with 26 percent opposed. In March, the polling firm found that 48 percent opposed same-sex marriage with 29 percent supporting.
A Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies poll released last week showed 44 percent of blacks supporting same-sex marriage with 52 percent opposed; in January, 33 percent of blacks supported the measure.
Since then, marriage equality has received a number of high-profile endorsements, including from President Barack Obama and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Supporters of the new law said Jump the Broom’s tactics were straight out of the playbook of the national anti-same-sex-marriage movement.
“The group's strategy is clearly to ‘drive a wedge between gays and blacks,’ as outlined in internal memos by the National Organization for Marriage,” Ezekiel Jackson, president of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said in a statement. “But supporters of marriage equality — like the NAACP and President Obama — seek to unite people from diverse backgrounds and faiths around the fundamental values of treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly said she was disappointed with the sort of divisive language used by the group.
“They want to own the civil rights movement, [but] it can’t be owned by any group of people” Ivey said. “We all own a piece of it.”