In one sense, last week's approval of Question 6, a referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act, came too late for Homeland residents Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane, the lead plaintiffs in an unsuccessful lawsuit that presaged same-sex marriage in Maryland.

The couple, who have two adopted daughters now in their teens, wed in February 2011 in Washington, where same-sex marriage was already legal.

"It was really important to our kids that we get married. They didn't understand," said Polyak, 51, an environmental engineer. "And we're getting older."

Polyak had mixed feelings as voters sent a close but clear message in approving the ballot question by 52-48 percent. She said passage is "good for the dignity" of gays and lesbians, "knowing that folks in the future don't have to shimmy down the highway" to get married.

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But she added, "Voters shouldn't have had to vote for something that's a fundamental right."

It came to that because of Polyak & Deane v. Conaway, a lawsuit filed in 2004 by nine couples against Baltimore City Clerk of Court Frank Conaway, who refused to issue them marriage licenses.

On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals held, in a 4–3 decision in 2007, that a statutory ban on same-sex marriage did not violate the state constitution.

In March 2012, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. But the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a coalition of groups that believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman, collected more than enough signatures to force the law to a referendum.

On Election Day, same sex-marriage referendums passed in Maryland, Maine and Washington state.

"For me and my kids, I can walk outside and hold my head up," Polyak said. "It's a huge psychological lift. But the last hurdle of having to take it to a referendum was really awful."

The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

Strong kinship

"I'm so happy," said Gayle Hefner, a congregant of Bolton Street Synagogue on West Cold Spring Lane. Both Hefner and her husband, Crosby King, are disabled and use wheelchairs. They feel a strong kinship with same-sex couples because they too were stigmatized as a couple who shouldn't get married or have children.

"If it's a choice we have, it's a choice everybody should have," Hefner said.

Hefner and other congregants at Bolton Street participated in phone banking and canvassing in support of Question 6.

"It's exactly the right direction for society to go," said Hefner, who has an adopted daughter. "Our society needs to have stable, long-term relationships."

And she added, "I have family members who will experience this as an opportunity for them."

Hefner also sees the new law as a victory for diversity.

"We have this much diversity for a reason," she said. "If all flowers were the same color, what a loss."

Also excited is Brian Ambrose, 47, an interpreter for the deaf, who came into the Party City store on York Road two weeks before Halloween, not to buy a Halloween costume, but to get ideas for his planned wedding May 4. Ambrose and his partner, information technology specialist Alex McLin, 30, are set to be married in Annapolis next year.