Marriage equality has never been approved at the ballot box anywhere in the country. But all that could change profoundly in less than two weeks in Maryland.
Marylanders will be heading to the polls to uphold Question 6, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which protects religious freedom and equal rights under the law. Recent polls show a majority of voters support the measure, but we know from other states that it will be close.
As public servants, we do not believe that government has any business telling one class of couples that they cannot marry. The 14th Amendment guarantees us all equal protection under the law, and that's what Maryland's Question 6 does — it treats all citizens equally under the law, while protecting religious freedom at the same time. Both of us made sure such protections were included in the bills we worked to pass through the legislatures in each of our states.
On a personal level, both of us have deep ties to Maryland: one of us a lifelong Marylander, the other an alumnus and board member of the Johns Hopkins University. We want our families, friends, neighbors and staff to have the same opportunity we have to marry — and to marry in Maryland, this state that we love.
It was a historic moment last year when marriage equality became law in the state of New York. It was a bipartisan victory that enjoyed the backing of a majority of New Yorkers young and old, Fortune 500 companies, and faith communities — similar to the coalition that came together to help pass Maryland's marriage equality law.
At the time, opponents of marriage issued warnings about how life in New York would change. They said that there would be "unintended consequences" for New York if same-sex marriage became legal. They were wrong.
Nothing has changed, except now thousands of committed couples, parents and their children can enjoy the same equal protection under the law. And despite the warnings from opponents, marriage equality has actually been good for business in New York. New York City alone has generated an estimated $259 million in economic impact in the first year after same-sex marriage passed.
Right now in Maryland, we're hearing the same warnings from the same opponents using the same old playbook. Their scare tactics won't work this time, either.
The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and dignity of all. And it is this belief in treating everyone equally under the law that has led to the surge in momentum in favor of Question 6.
The country has moved at lightning speed on the question of marriage equality in the past two years. A majority of the American people support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, as do some of the nation's largest and most respected companies. Six states and the District of Columbia have a marriage equality law on the books already.
And we're expecting Maryland to be the seventh. It's going to be a close race, but at the end of the day we believe voters will decide it's the right thing to do to treat their gay friends, neighbors, sons, daughters and other family members fairly and equally under the law.
Michael R. Bloomberg is mayor of New York City. Martin O'Malley is governor of Maryland. His email is email@example.com.