Polls: Md., Wash. could overturn gay marriage

OLYMPIA, Wash. (BP) -- Gay marriage laws in Washington state and Maryland are in danger of being overturned by voters, according to new polls that were released after traditional groups went on the air with television ads warning of the consequences of marriage redefinition.

Both new polls show traditional groups making up significant ground in the span of a few weeks.

In Washington state, Referendum 74 to legalize gay marriage is too close to call, with supporters of R-74 leading 49-45 percent, according to an Elway Poll of 451 likely voters conducted Oct. 18-21. A month earlier, supporters led, 51-37 percent.

"Opposition to Referendum 74 has grown over the past month while support has stayed at virtually the same level since July," an analysis by Elway Poll said.

In Maryland the vote on Question 6 -- which would legalize gay marriage if passed -- also is a dead heat, with 47 percent of likely voters opposing it and 46 percent favoring it. The survey of 801 likely voters was conducted Oct. 20-23 by OpinionWorks for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. A month earlier, supporters of gay marriage led, 49-39 percent.

Both states saw Democratic legislators and governors pass gay marriage laws this year, only to have citizens gather signatures to overturn them at the ballot. Neither law has taken effect.

Maine citizens also are deciding whether to legalize gay marriage through an initiative known as Question 1, although a poll hasn't been released there since ads went on the air. A Pan American SMS Group survey conducted in early October showed Question 1 winning, 55-39 percent, although an analysis by the polling group acknowledged that support in the poll likely was inflated.

"People give an answer that may not in fact indicate what they plan to do because they don't want to appear biased," Patrick Murphy of Pan American SMS Group told the Bangor Daily News.

In all three states, as well as in Minnesota where a constitutional marriage amendment is on the ballot, TV ads are urging citizens to protect the traditional definition of marriage.

One ad, tailored to each state, warns that gay marriage will be taught as normative in public schools. The 30-second ad features a couple, David and Tonia Parker, who live in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal.

"After Massachusetts redefined marriage, local schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended," David Parker says to the camera. "Courts ruled parents have no right to take their children out of class -- or to even be informed when this instruction was going to take place."

In the Maryland version of the ad, Tonia Parker then says: "If Question 6 passes, same-sex marriage could be taught in local Maryland schools, just as it was in Massachusetts. Don't make the same mistake and think that gay marriage won't affect you."

The Parkers' story is true. In 2006, two years after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the teacher in their son's second-grade class read the students "King & King," a story about a prince who searches for a wife, only to choose another prince as his husband. The Parkers and another couple filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school, but a lower court ruled against them, asserting that "diversity is a hallmark of our nation" and that such diversity "includes differences in sexual orientation." An appeals court upheld the decision.

In other ads, voters are told gay marriage will negatively impact free speech and religious liberty, leading to threats, lawsuits and even the firing of people who support the traditional definition of marriage. One particular ad references three incidents: 1) the bullying of Chick-fil-A after its president supported the biblical definition of marriage was told by several politicians it wasn't welcome in their cities, 2) the firing of Damian Goddard, a Canadian sports anchor who was axed after announcing his opposition to gay marriage and 3) the legal case involving a husband and wife who own a Vermont bed and breakfast and were sued after a lesbian couple was denied usage of the property for a wedding reception.

Jim O'Reilly, one of the bed and breakfast owners, tells the camera, "A lesbian couple sued us for not supporting their gay wedding because of our Christian beliefs. We had to pay $30,000 and can no longer host any weddings at our inn."


Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).