Maryland voters are leaning toward legalizing same-sex marriage next month, something that has never happened at the ballot box anywhere in the nation, a new Washington Post poll finds.
A ballot question on whether to uphold a state law allowing gay nuptials is favored 52 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to the poll, reflecting a long-term trend toward greater acceptance of gay unions that has included President Barack Obama's backing this year.
Same-sex marriage has become legal in six states and Washington through legislative or court action. But it has never been authorized by a popular vote.
Voters in Maine and Washington state will also be presented with the issue Nov. 6 — the first time since 2009 that any state has been asked whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Although the measures are leading in polls in all three states, the election results are hardly a given. Historically, opposition to same-sex marriage at the ballot box has been stronger than polls suggested, and an expected ad blitz from opponents in Maryland has barely begun.
On Question 6 in Maryland, voters will decide whether to uphold a law championed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) that won narrow legislative approval this year and was swiftly petitioned to referendum by opponents.
The Post poll finds sharp differences in support for Question 6 by race, region, age and political party.
Both sides in Maryland have been heavily targeting African American voters in a state where blacks make up a larger percentage of the electorate than anywhere outside the Deep South.
Proponents have featured ministers and civil rights leaders in their ads. Opponents have networked for months through black churches.
In The Post poll, white voters break in favor of gay nuptials, 56 percent to 39 percent.
But African Americans — who had become more supportive in national polls this year — tilt against the measure. In the new survey, 42 percent of black voters support the measure, and 53 percent oppose it.