A top LGBT civil rights group jumped unexpctedly into gambling politics on Wednesday, sending out a mailer in Maryland that tells voters who support the state's marriage equality law, which faces a referendum vote in November, to oppose an effort to put a vote on adding a casino to the state to the ballot this fall as well.
The mailing, obtained by BuzzFeed, is identified as coming from the "National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Maryland Political Action Committee" and tells voters, "[W]e encourage anyone who supports Marriage Equality to contact their legislators and ask them to say 'no' to gaming."
A spokeswoman from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force told BuzzFeed the mailing was a project of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, which is the political lobbying arm of the national group, and the treasurer listed on the mailer for the Maryland PAC, Bradley Carlson, is on the board Task Force's Action Fund.
The mailing was not issued in conjunction with the formal campaign committee supporting the marriage equality law in the referendum, Marylanders for Marriage Equality. The PAC is not registered with the state as of the most recent filing deadline, according to the state's online database.
"If the gaming bill is on the ballot, opponents are likely to spend millions identifying and turning out voters who don't like gambling ... and who also don't like Marriage Equality! So all the 'no' votes on gaming could also be 'no' votes for us," the mailer states. "Numerous polls confirm this, and several bloggers and political pundits in Maryland have said the same thing."
The Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign took issue with the mailer, with campaign manager Josh Levin telling BuzzFeed, "Turnout in heavily Democratic Maryland will be determined by the presidential race – not any other issue, including gambling should it be on the ballot. Opponents of the gambling expansion are clearly using the marriage issue for their own political gain. What's important here, however, is that we remain focused on expanding our 14-point lead and growing the momentum for marriage in Maryland."
The existing gambling operations in Maryland have been among the most strongly opposed to the vote on the expansion, which is being considered by a special session of the Maryland General Assembly that is beginning today.
The mailing is an unusual foray into gambling politics, which is not an issue with which the Task Force has been involved in the past, and the opposition from the group supporting marriage equality in the state raises questions about why the Task Force chose to take on this issue now.
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart reported recently that a supporter of the gambling measure, MGM Resorts International, provided polling that found the gambling measure's impact could even be a net benefit for supporters of the marriage equality law.
"The 'yes' vote for the gaming initiative is not only much bigger than the 'no' vote, it is more energized (with nearly double the strong support) and supports the marriage referendum by better than a 2-to-1 margin," the polling report from the Mellman Group concluded. "Thus, fears that the gaming amendment will suppress support for the marriage referendum are unwarranted."
UPDATE: The Task Force's communications director, Inga Sarda-Sorensen, tells BuzzFeed that her organization had been putting together responses to the questions posed to it by BuzzFeed this morning.
Sarda-Sorensen tells BuzzFeed, "The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund believes an uncluttered ballot is the best ballot, and provides for the best chance for securing marriage equality in Maryland."
She adds that the mailer was funded by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Maryland Political Action Committee and was a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund project.