Sentiments against Maryland's same-sex marriage law appear to run high as opponents have gathered more than double the number of signatures required to put the legislation on November's ballot.
While 55,736 voter signatures were needed to put the issue on the ballot, the Maryland Marriage Alliance collected more than 113,000 signatures with the help of over 4,000 trained volunteers who campaigned in churches and other venues in the last few months.
The organization working to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman was required to submit 18,579 signatures by May 31, and the remaining by June 30. The State Board of Elections now has 20 days to verify the signatures.
"There are people that are just impassioned about this issue around the state," Maryland Marriage Alliance Executive Director Derek McCoy stated, according to Reuters. "I think what you're seeing is, people don't want a radical redefinition of marriage just on a whim."
McCoy, pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, said the overwhelming response his organization received could partly be a reaction to President Barack Obama's May 9 announcement that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage.
McCoy added that people were also upset about Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and his position. "This is not just a sampling. This is a very clear message," he said.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a group fighting for gay rights, said the opponents' announcement on the signatures gathered wasn't a surprise. But "it's clear those opposed to marriage equality are losing ground," the group's campaign manager, Josh Levin, claimed in a statement.
Maryland became the eighth state to legalize gay marriage after the governor signed the law in March. However, the law comes into force in January, if not repealed by the referendum.
The District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York also allow same-sex marriage.