Earlier this year the Maryland legislature approved a new law allowing for same-sex marriage starting in January 2013, but opponents vowed to gather signatures to put the law to a public referendum. Given that polling on the issue was very close at the time of passage and given the poor track record of same-sex marriage initiatives at the ballot, at the time there appeared to be the real possibility the law could be vetoed by the electorate.

Since then though, President Obama has come out for marriage equality and his use of the bully pulpit has had a huge impact on Maryland voters, especially the state’s large African American population. From PPP:

-57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall, compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12 point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer 52/44 margin.

-The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

It will be interesting to see if the large shift in polling of opponents of same-sex marriage will continue/succeed in getting their referendum qualified for the ballot.

In a related development, the Maryland State Court of Appeals this week concluded that a petition signature is invalid unless it is an exact match between the name on the voter registration record and the name on the petition. This extremely rigid standard will make gathering the required number of valid signatures for a referendum to qualify very difficult. Combining this with recent developments makes it much more likely that same-sex marriages will begin as planned in Maryland at the beginning of next year.