ANNAPOLIS, Md. (BP) — Religious leaders in Maryland say citizens will get the final say on a gay “marriage” bill that is set to become law — with churches playing a critical role in possibly overturning it.
The Maryland Senate passed a bill Thursday (Feb. 23) by a vote of 25-22 that would redefine marriage, less than a week after the House of Delegates approved the same bill, 72-67. Democrats control both chambers, and Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley — who endorsed the bill in his State of the State address — is expected to sign it.
Maryland is but the latest state to act on the issue in what has been a dizzying year on the state level: Washington’s governor signed a gay “marriage” bill, New Jersey’s governor vetoed one and a coalition in Maine gathered enough valid signatures to place a gay “marriage” referendum on the fall ballot.
Like Washington state, Maryland law allows citizens to gather signatures in an attempt to “veto” new laws. Signature drives in both states likely will be successful. Maryland church groups must gather approximately 56,000 valid signatures for it to go on the November ballot.
A coalition has been formed known as Maryland Marriage Alliance (www.MarylandMarriageAlliance.com) to fight the law, which isn’t set to take effect until January 2013.
“We will do whatever we can to mobilize for the referendum,” Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., told Baptist Press. “[The other side has] got all the money. But with God, all things are possible.”
Catholics, too, figure to be involved heavily. Baltimore Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien released a statement after the vote, saying the archdiocese will “eagerly and zealously engage its 500,000 members in overturning this radical legislation” and will join with others “throughout Maryland in aggressively protecting the God-given institution of marriage.”
Because of its proximity to the nation’s capital, the Maryland vote figures to make national headlines. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement shortly after the vote, saying it marked “an extraordinary victory for the people of Maryland and a critical step forward in the march for marriage equality nationwide.”
Anderson called the issue one that goes beyond “political lines.” As an African American, he said he is aware that blacks tend to vote Democratic. But by and large, he said, African American churches have been united against the bill. He said about 500 members of his predominantly African American church signed cards opposing the bill that were given to legislators.
“We’re talking about something more basic to society and civilization,” Anderson said. “Black churches and black clergy got involved when the homosexual community started to make it an issue of civil rights. That’s a sacred cow among African Americans. We know what civil rights are. Our skin color — we didn’t have a choice. The color of your skin has nothing to do with sin.
“Homosexuality is sin,” he added. “To be black, to be Asian, to be Native-American, that is not sin.”
The state of Maryland, Anderson said, has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
“From a sociological level, it’s best for the children. Every child has a right to have a mom and a dad — to say at the end of the day, ‘Good night Mommy’ or ‘Good night Daddy.’ Every study tells you that it’s better for a child, overall in the long run, to have both a mother and a father.”
North Carolina and Minnesota also will vote this year on the issue, although those votes will be on constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Gay “marriage” has lost in every state in which it has received a ballot vote, 31 in all.
“We are not giving up on any state, or any court — or on the next generation,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a traditional group.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).