The Maryland Republican Party is urging residents to pressure state senators to vote against a bill legalizing gay marriage, which is expected to come up for debate this week.
On Saturday, the state GOP sent out alert emails encouraging social conservatives to call swing-vote senators and tell them to protect marriage between a man and a woman.
"It is urgent that you contact your state senator immediately to tell them to vote no on the assault on traditional marriage," states GOP chairman Alex Mooney in the email.
Since his election in December, Mooney has told party activists that he planned to weigh in on social issues as well as fiscal issues.
His call to action over the weekend comes after the state Judicial Proceeding Committee on Thursday cleared the same-sex marriage legislation for a floor vote.
The bill has met strong opposition in the Senate. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and a bipartisan coalition of 20 other senators have announced they will not support the bill. Miller has said he will work to stop a filibuster and end the debate.
However, since the committee vote, a tally reveals that gay marriage proponents have the 24 votes necessary to approve the bill. So far, the bill has 25 votes, with 18 from sponsors of the legislation.
In the email, Mooney called on supporters to contact nine Democratic senators, seven of whom have already committed to vote in favor of the bill.
Sen. James Rosapepe (D-Prince George's County) announced Friday that he was no longer undecided and would be voting for the gay marriage bill. Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) switched sides in favor of the marriage bill after sitting in on a committee hearing.
Mooney tells state Republicans, "There is still time to put pressure on your state Senator but we must act now."
The final vote on the bill is expected early this week. Miller has predicted that the bill will pass with a close vote of either 24-23 or 25-22. If approved by the Senate, the measure would then be considered in the House of Delegates, where supporters anticipate it will pass.
Miller said he expects a 2012 ballot referendum on gay marriage if the legislation is approved.
A recent poll found that the majority of Maryland voters are against gay marriage, with 54 percent in support of marriage between one man and one woman compared to 37 percent that say marriage should be available to same-sex couples.