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How Maryland's gay marriage vote could echo beyond blue states

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That is, if tightening polls in Maryland don’t replicate something advocates on both sides know all too well: Public opinion on marriage equality is notoriously difficult to pin down.

“Some [polls] are better than others, but they certainly can’t be taken at face value for the way that people are going to vote,” says Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is one of the major funders of the Maryland opposition to the ballot question.

One big swing group for Question 6, as it's called, is the African-American vote – nearly guaranteed Democratic voters who are socially conservative. Recent polls have shown backsliding support for Question 6 among African-Americans – who make up between a quarter and a third of the electorate – from about 6 in 10 to roughly evenly divided.

That’s despite the endorsement of gay marriage from President Obama, the NAACP, and black pastors including the Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md.

“This is about protecting everyone equally under the law,” Mr. Coates says. “This isn’t about your personal views about homosexuality, or your view on this or that Bible verse.”

Coates believes the question will pass, and that it will give hope to other states with large African-American communities to try to explain the issue of gay marriage through civil rights.

If Maryland voters back Question 6, it could be historic for second reason, as well: Maryland would join Washington, D.C., as the southernmost frontier of same-sex marriage.

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