In a triumphant move for gay rights in Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley who is a democrat, signed a bill just a short week after its legislative passing to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The bill would take full effect in January 2013. But, like many of these exciting stories begin, there are a large number of oppressors petitioning to take this to a referendum on the November ballot.

Religious freedom was the very reason for our state’s founding and at the heart of religious freedom is the freedom of individual conscience,” O’Malley said just before adding his signature to the bill. Despite O’Malley’s efforts to tie the church into his decision, opposers are in search of 56,000 signatures to send the measure before voters in November. The groups are relying heavily on churchgoers who feel same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs. Even gay rights activists expect they will succeed and that a referendum will take place.

Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said black churches could heavily influence the referendum, but liberal voters who come out to support Obama’s re-election could offset the votes against same-sex marriage. But, is it inappropriate to leave what is considered a civil rights issue to the discretion of voters? “It’s sad to me that anyone would think that it’s OK to put up the rights of a minority to a popular vote,” said Lisa Polyak, chairwoman of the board of directors for the gay rights organization Equality Maryland. “We have children, we have lives, we have jobs and we just want to go about them with integrity.”

As seen above, only eight states legally accept the term of same-sex marriage while a few offer civil unions or recognize domestic partnerships. However, there is still a long way to go for gay rights in many states with Minnesota and North Carolina currently in pending and awaiting legislation. Do you think Maryland’s new bill will go into a referendum and if so, what do you think the outcome will be. Sound off below.

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