ANNAPOLIS - Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland waited Tuesday night for the outcome of a very close vote on the statewide ballot question that will decide its legality.
With 84 percent of precincts reporting after 11:30 p.m., supporters of allowing same sex marriage in Maryland held a slim lead with about 51.5 percent of the vote.
Sultan Shakir, political director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said he expected Question 6 to pass, but he said that it would be "very, very close."
"We've seen overwhelming support from people across the state - diverse support," Shakir said.
Supporters and opponents both held gatherings after poll close to wait for the results.
Amy Gilford, the director of community relations at the Marriage and Relationship Education Center was waiting for the results at the Republican party headquarters in Westminster.
"It's not over till it's over. Of course we knew it was going to be close and it is," Gilford said.
At the polls Tuesday afternoon, the ballot question was an easy "No" vote for 70-year-old Robert Coleman, a Republican.
Some Republicans, particularly younger ones, didn't have trouble voting for it.
Younger voters were more likely to support the ballot question, according to exit polling. The strongest support was among those under age 29, with less support from those age 30 to 44. People over the age of 65 largely opposed it.
Carroll County voted against same-sex marriage with 45,884 votes. Supporters of same-sex marriage came in with 35,304 votes in Carroll.
"I just don't think it's necessary," Jim Barnes, a registered Republican, said after casting his vote inside South Carroll High School's gym. "We keep going down a slippery slope, where's it going to stop?"
Judy Gaver, the president of the Westminster-Carroll County chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she was pleased with the positive feedback she received at the polls.
Sykesville resident June Horner, an avid same-sex marriage advocate, said she felt uplifted by the people at the polls.
"I felt so encouraged and uplifted by the number of thumbs up and words of affirmation we received. It really did my heart good," Horner said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley had signed gay marriage into law in March, but opponents collected enough signatures to force a ballot referendum. The issue has never succeeded at the ballot box. Thirty-two states have held votes on same-sex marriage since 1998, and all 32 have opposed it. Maryland is one of four states with referendums on the issue Tuesday. The others are Maine, Washington and Minnesota.
O'Malley, who strongly supported the law, has said it protects the religious beliefs of clergymen who oppose same-sex unions because they do not have to solemnize the marriages. It's proved a tough sell, though, among some black clergy and their congregations.
Some Maryland Catholics, though, said they voted for the ballot question, despite opposition from the church.
And although many black church groups opposed the measure, exit polls found that black voters were about split on the issue. Gilford said black church groups in Prince George's County were instrumental in petition drives, and she hoped they would turn up for the vote.
Mary Lintner, a 49-year old Democrat from College Park, said the provisions in the law that ensure religious leaders don't have to solemnize the marriages made her more comfortable.
"Maybe I'm just a little laid back," Lintner said. "I think everyone should just be happy."
John Raffensparger Jr., 46, a registered Republican, said he voted against it because "it's a sin against God."
Gilford said the fight for traditional marriage was an uphill battle due to the wording, and push from the governor. Gaver, who supports same-sex marriage, said she was cautiously optimistic.
"If I wake up in the morning and I find out the same-sex marriage is overturned, I will at least take comfort in the fact that I put 100 percent of my energy in this campaign. If I find that we succeed and that we've kept the marriage law, I think I'll cry with tears of joy," Horner said.