Jump-the-BroomA group opposing Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law is explicitly targeting the state’s black voters, invoking the civil rights movement to argue against marriage rights for gay families.

Jump the Broom for Marriages, a Baltimore-based ballot issue committee, objects to same-sex unions of any sort on religious grounds.

“God’s word states that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Alethia Williams, the group’s campaign manager. “That’s what our organization is about.”

Jump the Broom for Marriage takes its name from a traditional African-American wedding ritual that dates back to slavery, and its website defines the act as “the first civil right.” In the upcoming vote on the law, the black vote will make the difference, Williams said.

The group, which runs a call centre out of Baltimore, has distributed more than 100,000 pieces of campaign literature, Williams said. The campaign is focusing on Prince George’s and Howard counties and Baltimore city, she said.

One promotional image, viewable on the website, declares “Gay Rights is NOT a Civil Rights Issue” and asks “Have you ever seen a water fountain for Gays only?” The statements are accompanied by a picture of a modern-looking water fountain with a paper “whites only” sign taped to it; the caption underneath reads, “A Real Civil Rights Issue!”

Maryland lawmakers approved same-sex marriage earlier this year, but opponents petitioned it to the ballot and voters will decide whether to uphold the law in the November elections.

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