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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 you say that a homosexual family is equal to mine, that's offensive to me," said David Austin Nimicks, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund. "We're talking about the intentional creation of motherless or fatherless families."

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Three panelists made a case that expanding the right to marriage beyond heterosexual couples would weaken the institution and thus weaken the family.

"There's a reason the left is going after marriage," said Doug Mainwaring of the Capital Tea Party Patriots, who is gay. Family and the church are "a bulwark against government taking over our lives."

Mainwaring said allowing same-sex marriage will open the door to legalizing other kinds of unions, like "threesome relationships."

"They're trying to make this look so normal, so conservative, so appealing - they're just like you and me," he said of the campaign to legalize gay marriage.

Demographics are on the side of those pushing for expanded marriage rights. National polls consistently show more people support same-sex marriage than oppose it and that young people back same-sex marriage by a large margin.

Even Jackson, who is helping to lead the effort, said that until a few years ago, he was "very much against homosexuality." Then, he learned that a close childhood friend was gay.

He said the news forced him to reexamine his views.

"It wasn't someone throwing talking points at me that changed my mind. It was that I could relate it to something real," he said. "I think that's happened every time a group has changed their mind."

Carlton Smith, a founder of Baltimore Black Pride, said he does not personally plan to marry if the referendum passes. Smith, who is 49, says he has survived a lifetime of bullying from family members and fellow blacks and from the white gay community, and he hopes life will become easier for gay, black men in Baltimore.

"It will seem close to equality," he said. "We're not all there yet but it will be one more milestone I'll live to see."

Editing by Jim Loney

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