Mixed feelings in the county about Maryland affirming the same-sex marriage law

Votes cast on Election Day for or against Question 6, Maryland's Civil Marriage Protection Act, were coming in neck-and-neck throughout Tuesday night.

It was too close to call until the early hours of Wednesday morning.

June Horner, a 76-year-old mother of three and spearhead behind Carroll County's Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, had spent all day at the polls trying to gain support for same-sex marriage. She thought she was going to find out the results when she woke up the next day.

That is, until she got a call from her son and his partner. They couldn't wait to tell her the news.

"I'm so excited," she said. "I see a wedding in the future."

Maryland became one of the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. The measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent for the referred law, and the favorable vote means the unions will begin Jan. 1 in the state.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act was signed into law earlier this year and establishes that same-sex couples may enter a civil marriage, or have the legal ability to get a marriage license.

Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed for the legislation that had stalled in the Maryland General Assembly. He successfully pushed it through, but opponents petitioned the law to be decided by ballot Question 6.

Voters also supported the proposal in Maine. In Washington, a gay marriage measure was approved 52 percent to 48 percent. Minnesota voters rejected a proposal that would have defined marriage solely as a heterosexual union.

Couples such as Chris Riley, of Elkridge, said he and his husband, Shawn, could hardly believe the question had passed.

"Both of us were just totally blown away," he said.

The couple was married in Washington, D.C., on April 9, 2010. They planned to have a ceremony in Maryland that fall, but then decided to hold off.

"I don't think we should spend the money in a state that doesn't recognize our ceremony," he said.

So they worked hard to have that changed, testifying in favor of the bill that was in Annapolis. After it passed, they canvassed and spread the positive image of a loving, committed gay couple before the law went to referendum vote, Riley said.

He even started a reddit.com account inviting those who voted for Question 6 to the ceremony of him and his husband, which is tentatively planned for April 2013, Riley said.

"We'd really like anybody who hasn't attended a gay wedding before," he said. "To show them it's two loving people who are committing themselves to one another."

But to Amy Gilford, the director of community relations at the Marriage and Relationship Education Center in Westminster, marriage should continue to be between a man and a woman. She volunteered with the Maryland Marriage Alliance and worked to prevent the question from being passed and was disappointed to learn the results.

"It may be legal, but that doesn't mean it's right," Gilford said.

There was too much discussion about the law being fair and not enough talk about how the law will redefine marriage, she said.

On Tuesday, voter Andrew Wahl, of Finksburg, voted for Question 6 because he said he believes it was an issue of fairness.

"I don't think you should keep people from being happy," he said.

But Gilford believes that redefining marriage, which she said this passage will do, will have negative consequences and alter society. She thinks the vote results may have been different had it been the only issue on the ballot and that the state is still very divided about same-sex marriage.

"I still firmly believe in my heart that Marylanders did not want to redefine marriage," she said.

The county voted against the question 57 to 43 percent. The Carroll County Board of Commissioners have proclaimed a Marriage Week, a week to honor marriage between a man and a woman, for the last five years.

Gilford was encouraged as she saw hundreds of people mobilize against Question 6 before the election, and was appalled at the anger shown toward people protecting traditional marriage, she said.

"I think that passion is not going to go away," she said. "We'll remain true to protecting natural marriage."

At Sandymount Elementary Tuesday night, voter Thomas Jones, of Finksburg, said even though same-sex marriage is against his religious beliefs, he voted for Question 6 because he believes the law gives people the rights they deserve.

Riley is looking forward to exercising those rights and celebrating his marriage in Maryland with his family and friends. Even though he feels like his hard work has paid off in his home state, he thinks there is still a lot of work to be done.

"There's too many more people that need us who are in other states," he said. "When we have equality in our nation, then maybe we can settle down."

Horner said the passage of Question 6 will serve as an anniversary gift of sorts to her son and his partner, who have been together 25 years.

They haven't yet made marriage plans, but she's already looking forward to the future nuptials.

The support for same-sex marriage in Maryland and the other states where it went to popular vote was unbelievable, she said.

"I can't tell you how many times I've encountered disappointment," Horner said. "It feels as if the tide has turned."

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