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Gay marriage in Maryland: A state divided (+video)

Advocates of gay marriage in Maryland equate it to interracial marriage, which was also illegal at one time. While some voters have been convinced, others are not so easily won over.

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"When did sodomy get to be a civil right?" Burns said in an interview. "Two consenting adults can do what they want in private but you want to change the definition and make it marriage? No."

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A quarter of the Maryland electorate is black and public opinion polls suggest the outcome of the referendum will be close.

"It was against the law for black people to be married to one another at one time," Ralph Moore, a community activist, said at a recent debate in Baltimore. "The definition of marriage has constantly been changed in this country."

"Black people should not be a part of denying rights," he said. "That's not how we got here."

Gay marriage campaigners say they are beginning to win over more black voters, boosted by President Barack Obama, who was the first US president to support same-sex marriage and has endorsed the efforts in Maryland,Washington and Maine.

Black celebrities like hip hop moguls Jay-Z and Russell Simmons have also spoken out in support of same-sex marriage.

But in Maryland, some voters - black and white - will never be convinced. Last month, several dozen people gathered at a Christian center in Davidsonville for an event held by the Maryland Marriage Alliance - the main group opposing the referendum.

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