Maryland became one of the first states in the nation to uphold same-sex marriage at the ballot box Tuesday, as voters narrowly affirmed their support for the state’s new marriage equality law.
“Marylanders chose to come together to affirm this profound truth that has served as both the cornerstone — and the beacon of hope — of our nation,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in a statement. “By this vote, the people of our state affirmed that we are one Maryland and that we’re all in this together.”
The measure took 51.2 percent of the vote, as of early Wednesday morning, with 48.8 percent opposed.
State legislators approved the law during this year’s regular General Assembly session, but opponents successfully petitioned it to the ballot.
A majority of voters in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery counties and Baltimore city supported the measure.
Supporters, led by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, sought to emphasize the religious protections built into the bill, which made clear that no church would have to perform same-sex marriages, and religious organizations would not have to provide services to same-sex couples.
The coalition also touted the support of prominent black leaders such as the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, and Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP. Both men appeared in media ads supporting the ballot measure, known as Question 6.
Same-sex marriage also gained the support of President Barack Obama earlier this year.
Earlier Tuesday evening, Maine became the first state to approve gay nuptials.
Marylanders who voted early favored same-sex marriage, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.
Opposition in Maryland was led by the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which argued that “redefining marriage,” as it described the measure, would be bad for Maryland’s families and that children were raised better by heterosexual couples.
The alliance was waiting until all precincts had reported before conceding defeat, a spokeswoman said.
Vanessa Bowling and Sadie Ajavon, both of Parkville, said they planned to marry if the measure passed.
“I just want to be able to marry the person that I love,” Ajavon said.
In addition to Maine and Maryland, same-sex marriage was on the ballot in Washington state, while Minnesota residents voted on a constitutional amendment that would have limited the definition of marriage to the union of one man and one woman.
Same-sex marriage was leading in the other states as well.
Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, an openly gay legislator, said after victory was apparent, “I’m so thankful to the thousands of people who came together on the right side of history today. It took an army of every age, race faith, background, and political party to get this done, and it’s a proud day for all of us.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, Maryland polling data on the issue was murky and conflicted, and polling in states that have previously voted on the issue is notoriously unreliable, with opposition often underestimated.
The issue clearly left some voters conflicted. Miles Yates, 24, of Bowie, said Tuesday afternoon that he wasn’t sure gay couples should be allowed to marry, but felt they should have legal unions.
“As much as I want to say no, I also want to say yes,” Yates said. “I’m for people being happy.” Yates said he was considering just leaving the question blank, so gays and their families could be the ones to decide one way or the other.
On the other hand, the measure did earn the support of some Republicans, such as Daniel Elmore of Silver Spring.
“This is a conservative issue,” Elmore said. “The arguments against gay marriage are the arguments against gays as a group.”
Joseph Mann of Frederick, who also voted at the Cornerstone Fellowship station, was also pleased to see Question 6 on the ballot in Maryland this year.
“I am glad they put the civil marriage on the ballot,” he said. “I feel that everybody should have that kind of ability.”
Staff Writer Margarita Raycheva contributed to this report.