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Same-sex marriage petition certified

ElectionsJustice SystemFamilyMarriageSame-Sex Marriage

Maryland's Board of Elections certified a petition Tuesday to put the state's new same-sex marriage law on the November ballot, the final procedural step needed for voters to challenge the controversial law.

"We're excited, we're on the ballot," said Dereck McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a church-led group pushing to repeal the law. "We're glad that we were able to have a loud say."

The Maryland Marriage Alliance submitted 162,224 signatures to repeal the law — the most turned in on any referendum issue in recent memory. The Board of Elections stopped verifying after approving 109,313 of them.

"We've determined that the petitions satisfied the legal requirements," said Donna Duncan, director of the elections management section of the state Board of Elections.

A spokesman for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a group defending the new law, would not say whether his group plans to mount a court challenge. "We're not taking any options off the table," said Kevin Nix, the spokesman.

The group has long assumed that opponents would be able to put the question to voters, Nix said. "Our base is fired up, momentum is with us."

African-Americans make up about a third of the state's registered voters, and traditionally have been uneasy with same-sex marriage. However, new polling suggests that the needle is moving among black voters, and they are becoming more open to the issue.

Nix's group released a new Web-only ad Tuesday featuring mostly African-Americans explaining on camera why they support same-sex marriage.

NAACP chairman Julian Bond also issued a statement Tuesday supporting same-sex marriage, saying that Marylanders will be "casting a vote on the law — not on their faith."

Tuesday's certification means that advocates and opponents will both have to create ballot committees and start tracking their donations and expenses. They will not have to report on these until Oct. 12.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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