Same-sex marriage strikes home for some Carroll residents

Voters in Maryland made history as they voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, something that has never been done in a referendum before.

Prior to this election, same-sex marriage was legal in six states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, along with the District of Columbia.

Laws regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage have been on the ballot in 32 states for citizens to vote on before this year, and until now it was defeated every time.

On Nov. 6 Maryland, Maine and Washington became the first three states to legalize same-sex marriage through the popular vote, making same-sex marriage legal in nine states plus the District of Columbia.

The tally in Maryland showed that 52 percent of Maryland voters were for Maryland's Civil Marriage Protection Act, while 48 percent were against it.

In Carroll County, 45,884 people, or 56.5 percent, voted against the referred law, while 35,304 people, equaling 43.5 percent, voted for it.

Voters in Minnesota showed support for gay rights, voting against a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in that state.

At polling sites across Carroll County Nov. 6, advocates held signs and handed out pamphlets both for and against legalizing same-sex marriage.

Proponents of legalizing same-sex marriage were visible and vocal at the polls in Carroll.

Westminster resident June Clarke and Reisterstown resident Bonnie Kauffman displayed signs in support of Question 6 and passed out informative pamphlets to voters at Sandymount Elementary School in Finksburg.

Clarke said they were representing Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists, a spiritual community located in Finksburg.

Clarke and Kauffman waved to each voter who drove by them or walked past them into the school.

"We are mostly getting thumbs up here, it's wonderful," Clarke said.

At the Liberty High School polls, Sykesville resident Michelle McNutt held a "Vote for Question 6" sign.

McNutt said legalizing same-sex marriage would mean a lot to her personally, as she hopes to marry her partner, Erin Saywell.

"I hope to become Michelle Saywell one day ... I've been trying to get rid of my last name forever," she said, laughing.

June Horner, a gay-rights advocate with Carroll County's Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she has worked tirelessly over the years advocating for gay rights, and she barely slept the week before the election organizing volunteers to advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage at the polls.

Her hard work paid off, she said, when she realized on election night that her son would be able to marry his same-sex partner of more than 25 years.

"All the work and the worry, the hours of burning the midnight oil over the years - because I've cared about this for a long time - it has all come to fruition," Horner said. "I knew this was something that needed to be fixed, and I knew this back in 1985 when I asked my son if he was gay."

Horner said each of her three children have been with their life-partners for 25 years, but she always felt like her youngest son was treated as a second-class citizen because he was in love with a man.

She said she is looking forward to her son and his partner being able to say they are married, and call each other "husband."

But while Horner many others rejoiced at the news of same-sex marriage becoming legal in Maryland, others across Carroll disagreed.

Westminster resident Jacquelyn Loats stood outside Robert Moton Elementary School on Election Day holding a handmade sign urging Carroll residents to vote against Question 6.

Loats said she is against same-sex marriage because of her religious beliefs.

"I love the Lord and strive to follow his commands," she said. "This law really goes against his commands."

Loats campaigned outside the polling place for two hours.

"This is my last stitch effort," she said.

Horner said while she knows many, like Loats, believe that same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs, she thinks they will get used to living alongside married gays and lesbians.

"I know there are those who are fearful and feel their religion is threatened, but they will get used to this like they got used to women being able to vote, they got used to black people being treated equally," she said. "When they wake up in the morning on Jan. 1, their lives will not have changed, but the lives of so many little families in the state will be so changed because now they will have protections for their families and their children."

Horner said she hopes Maryland will lead the way in an evolution of the way Americans think about same-sex marriage in the eyes of the law.

"I tell you, the equality train is rolling, it's going to happen," she said. "I hope and I expect that this will be the first of many wins and soon it won't be an issue."

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