By Jeremy Quintin
Elm Staff writer
Townsfolk and college student salike gathered on Saturday, Oct. 6 in Fountain Park for a rally on Question 6, a new referendum on the Maryland ballot to determine whether or not same-sex couples will be allowed the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
Members of Chestertown’s PFLAG chapter (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and Washington College’s EROS (Encouraging Respect of Sexuality) organized and presented the rally to remind voters of the importance of voting “yes” on Question 6, a veto referendum to determine whether the Civil Marriage Protection Act passed last year will be upheld. This act is the actual law decreeing marital equality for homosexual couples. Voting yes on the referendum would be in support of upholding the act.
“Referendum six gives all families the right to the benefits of civil marriage- inheritance rights, equal job benefits, all kinds of civil rights that you get by being a spouse of someone else in a legal marriage,” said Linda Dutton, secretary of Chestertown’s PFLAG chapter.
“It’s important that the LGBT community has the same equal rights as any heterosexual couples who are able to get married,” said Claire Hansen, co-president of EROS. “It’s not going to equalize them entirely, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Question 6 will be presented Tuesday, Nov. 6 on the Maryland ballot, as well as on the absentee and early voting ballots. In order to get the veto referendum on the ballot, those opposed to the law had to collect more than 55,000 signatures in support of the referendum. Having this veto referendum will allow the public vote exclusively to decide whether the law will be enacted or delayed for further revision.
“If this gets passed, it will be the first time that gay marriage is passed legally by a popular vote, not just by diplomats,” said Hansen.
Many of the people who attended the rally have friends and family members in their lives who would be personally affected by the Act. Dutton is no exception.
“Our daughter and her partner had a wedding last summer here in Maryland, but their wedding was not legal because they are gay,” she said. “It just seems very unfair. It’s a civil rights issue to us.”
“I know several happy married gay couples,” said Peter Heck, photographer for the Kent County News, who was also at the rally, “and their marriage is no threat whatsoever to mine, so I don’t see why anybody should think we need to restrict this.”
The fact that the rally took place during the Chestertown Farmer’s Market gathered considerable attention from passersby, many of whom were also in support of marriage equality. “Everybody should have equal rights,” said rally attendee Sabrina Gover, who did not know about Question 6 before the rally took place. “I have a bunch of gay friends, and if they want to get married, I’d like to go to their weddings.”
Performances by The Pam Ortiz band and rap artist Kyle Couture also brought a lot of attention.
“Me being gay myself, this is something that affects me. So for me to not be here and support something that will affect me in the long run does not make sense,” said Couture.
Voting locations in Chestertown will be opened for voting on Nov. 6, and can be found at the Volunteer Fire Company, Elks Lodge, and Kent County Public Library. Question 6 will be included among other referendums for public consideration.
The lack of opposition at the rally presented a very positive outlook for the passing of this referendum in the mind of Chris Miller, co-president of EROS. “I haven’t seen an organized opposition. It’s more of a shadow in the background.”
Public policy polling done in Maryland shows that more than half of Maryland voters are in favor of same-sex marriage rights, making the odds of a certain positive vote quite good.
“I think this might just be the year that we get it done,” said Miller.