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Anti-gay marriage group: We have signatures for Maryland ballot

Rachel Maddow notes that support for marriage equality in Maryland has surged among African-Americans since President Barack Obama declared his support for equality.

Gay marriage opponents in Maryland said Tuesday they’ve handed in more than double the signatures required to hold a ballot referendum to squash the state’s new same-sex marriage law.

Thursday is the deadline to submit to election officials at least one-third of the 56,000 signatures needed to get the referendum on the November ballot. But Maryland Marriage Alliance, which supports defining marriage as between a man and a woman, said it handed in some 122,000 later Tuesday.

The final deadline for all signatures, which the state Board of Elections has to count and verify, is June 30. Derek McCoy, executive director of Maryland Marriage Alliance, told msnbc.com that he was confident they now had the signatures to get on the ballot but they would still continue to collect them.

“What we’re finding is that people are just engaged and passionate about this, even after Obama and the NAACP came out” in support of gay marriage," McCoy said. “Anybody that was on the fence is no longer on the fence.”

A similar effort is under way in Washington state, where legislation approving same-sex marriage was signed into law by the governor earlier this year. Six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while 31 states have constitutional amendments that effectively ban gay marriage (this tally does not include California, where federal judges have ruled the amendment unconstitutional though further appeals are expected).

In mid-May, North Carolina became the most recent state to ban same-sex marriage. The day after that vote, President Barack Obama said he supported same-sex marriage, becoming the first American president to do so.

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Since then, a survey of Maryland voters has shown a “significant” uptick for support of gay marriage among African-Americans, according to results released last Thursday by Public Policy Polling, which said it did the poll on behalf of Marylanders for Marriage Equality -- the group campaigning to keep the same-sex marriage law on the books.

Some 57 percent of the state’s voters say they would support the law in November, compared to 37 percent who are opposed. Meanwhile, 56 percent of African-Americans say they’ll back the new law, with 39 percent opposed, almost a complete reversal from earlier numbers, said the polling firm.

The survey’s overall margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percent, and for the African-American sample it was plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Nationwide, a Gallup poll released in May revealed closer numbers, with 50 percent of Americans saying same-sex marriage should be legal, compared to 48 percent opposed. Support for gay marriage fell slightly in that poll from a record high of 53 percent in 2011, the first time a majority of Americans favored gay marriage. Opposition was 45 percent in that poll.

Kevin Nix, a spokesman for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said his group expected opponents to get the required signatures since it was a “low bar” to cross.

“We’re all planning on this going to a referendum,” he said.

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