Liberty and Justice for all in Maryland

Linda Davidson THE WASHINGTON POST Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley poses with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and House Speaker Mike Busch … Continued

Linda Davidson

THE WASHINGTON POST

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley poses with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and House Speaker Mike Busch and supporters after signing the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012 legalizing same-sex marriage in the state in Annapolis on March 1, 2012.

There is no good reason religious people should oppose marriage equality. In fact, there’s every good reason, including religious reasons, for supporting the freedom to marry.

This November, Maryland voters will have the historic opportunity to extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Specifically, Marylanders will vote on Question 6, asking them to approve or reject a marriage equality bill state legislators passed earlier this year.

Should voters affirm the law, Maryland would join six other states and the District of Columbia – as well as become the first state below the Mason-Dixon Line – that currently allow loving and committed same-sex couples to marry. It would also make Maryland the first state (or one of the first states, depending on the results of Maine and Washington’s marriage equality referenda) to approve of marriage equality at the ballot box.

In short, approving marriage equality at the ballot box in Maryland would be a historic moment in the fight for “liberty and justice for all.”

Some opponents of equality are claiming that allowing loving and committed gay and lesbian couples to marry somehow poses a threat to religious freedom. As a recent report by my colleagues at the Center for American Progress shows, Maryland is one of many states that has demonstrated the freedom to marry and the freedom to worship are wholly compatible with one another.

Earlier this year, the Maryland Legislature passed and Gov. Martin O’Malley into law a bill that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples. This bill ensures that religious institutions can continue to believe and practice their faith as they choose, unchanged by the law. Indeed, although such a freedom of religion is already guaranteed in the Constitution, the proposed law goes out of its way to reassure religious groups of that protection.

In fact, no clergyperson of any denomination/faith is required to officiate at any wedding, gay or straight. A clergyperson has the right to decline any request to preside at a marriage without giving any reason for doing so. That is already the law.

Maryland lawmakers also went a step further by including language exempting religious institution or organization from certain laws that would otherwise outlaw discrimination against same-sex couples. For example, even though it will remain illegal to deny a same-sex couple service at a restaurant in the state of Maryland, religious institutions can choose to not open their doors to same-sex couples for rehearsal dinners, wedding ceremonies, and for other marriage-related accommodations.

Maryland is not unique in providing these kinds of exemptions. In fact, every state that has passed a marriage equality bill has included some type of religious exemption language, according to the Center for American Progress report.

And just in case voters in Maryland needed a reminder about the bill’s religious freedom provisions, 75 percent of the referendum language itself is not about marriage equality, but instead about the types of religious exemption provisions that lawmakers included in the original bill:

In Maryland and elsewhere, the state is in no way muzzling religious freedoms by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Instead, I would maintain that the separation of church and state is being violated in the absence of a marriage equality law – violated not by the state, but by religious institutions themselves. Usually, when we speak of the separation of church and state, we are concerned that the state might impinge on the rights and freedoms promised religious institutions in the Constitution. But in the case of marriage equality, we see religious institutions trying to impose their will and their faith on the body politic, attempting to use faith and scripture to keep the state from guaranteeing “liberty and justice for all” as promised in the Constitution.

We can’t have it both ways. If separation of church and state is good and appropriate for the protection of the church, it should also be good and appropriate for the protection of the state from undue influence by religion. Maryland’s Roman Catholic bishops’ caution that marriage equality “infringe[s] upon the religious liberties of individuals and institutions” displays either an ignorance of what the law actually says, or an intentional distortion of the truth.

I believe in the people of Maryland and their ability to separate truth from distortion. Marylanders know what “fair” is. And they believe in “fair.” When the Constitution promises “liberty and justice for all,” come November, voting “yes” on Question 6, Maryland voters will make the word “all” mean “all” in Maryland.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson is bishop the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, in Washington, D.C.

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  • Kraven Moorehead

    Why is it not suorising that hhe Gay church is for Gay Marraige or that this newspaper would have a person who is from a church that has an ongoing split where members are leavimng in droves due to this heresy. Marraigen as he well konows if he really studies the christian faith was created by God in Genisis 2 as being between a man and a woman. This predates any form of government and shows that Marriage is and has been defined for thoussands of years as being between a man and a woman. Government does not decide or dictate what makes up marraige, God Does and Already DID. Your own attempt to pervet what has been taught for milleniums as being what is right and just and will create strong homes and families cannot be changed by courts or governments perverted individual because you do not control it. In your own perversion you revel until death, it is as an addiction to you and the filth cannot be remnoved without true repentance and salvation.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    If the chronology provided by Genesis is to be taken seriously (it is not), then God wrote all this down around the time that the Sumerians were learning to brew beer. So no, your delusion does not predate any form of government. A person who can scarcely write yet claims to know so much lacks contrition. Off to the inferno with you.

  • bflorhodes

    Once again, bigots are allowed their religious exemption.

    Why? We have proof of loving gay people. God, not so much.

  • leibowde84

    The employment of ideas used by men thousands of years ago is not appropriate to deny the rights of anyone in modern times. The very purpose of changes to legislation of this kind is the acknowledgement that we haven’t got it right yet. What is the point of living in a free country if we take away our own ability to improve our legislative system. If you have your own personal beliefs about the damage this legislation will provide, then, by all means, share it. But, don’t rely too heavily on the New Testament of the Bible, a book written by imperfect men long after Jesus or any of his colleagues lived, or on the ideas of philosophers who, however impressive for their times, didn’t have the knowledge and social understanding we enjoy today.

  • Truthbetold3

    Re: “Maryland’s Roman Catholic bishops’ caution that marriage equality “infringe[s] upon the religious liberties of individuals and institutions” displays either an ignorance of what the law actually says, or an intentional distortion of the truth.”

    I think it is BOTH. And they do it on purpose.

    They are deceivers of men.

  • Truthbetold3

    What a crappy ‘preacher’ Kraven is.

  • beowulf3

    That is one scary group photo. Perfect for Halloween.

  • dcrswm

    When has the church not been a deceiver of men?

  • dcrswm

    If gay people are such a problem I suggest that the church go after the heterosexual couples giving birth to gay children.

  • telemachus

    O’Malley switched his position on the definition of marriage in Maryland this year.

    It is likely he changed his position based on political expediency, more than anything else.

    Governor Cuomo in NY passed a gay marriage law in NY just this year.

    O’Malley is foaming at the mouth to run for President, and Cuomo would be his most likely contender for that Democratic nomination.

    O’Malley could not succeed wihout securing the wealthy and politically active gay part of the Democratic base.

    Presto, he saw the light, and the light was being no less pro changing the definition of marriage than Mr. Cuomo.

    If he loses on ballot question 5.6, and 7 or even 2 out of the 3, his national political aspirations are finished.

    Hence his dancing with the stars and profootball players to secure the votes he needs to insure his political future.

  • RHURKER

    The so-called religious “exemption” language in Question 6 isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and that is a major objectional element of this awful and dangerous bill.

    Trust that a furure governor and legislature won’t water down the religious liberty language and force churches to solemize such relationships. Trust that some future lawsuits won’t try to force religious institutions morally opposed to homosexuality to host a wedding reception, or print invitations, or open their facility to such events.

    Trust that some future politically motivated evolution won’t trump religious liberty–No Way!

    Vote No on Question 6 Vote Agai
    nst the Referred Law.

  • RHURKER

    Curious that there has been no current Maryland based polling on Question 6. None. If the pro-homosexual side were confident of victory, it would be plastered all over the homosexual friendly media, including the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.

    The legislation will be defeated. A large turnout by black voters–who overwhelming oppose it and are 22% percent of the statewide population–qurantees it’s going down in flames. These voters will turn out in force for President Obama. They will split their vore: Obama–Yes; Question 6–No.

    Maryland is about to become the new North Carolina on so-called homosexual marriage.

  • RHURKER

    News Flash–Marriage is Not a Right. No one has a right to be married. Marriage is a privilege.

  • gary47a

    wrong wrong wrong. In Loving v Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled freedom to marry is a fundamental right. The state must provide a compelling reason to deny it. So far, court have ruled that prisoners have a right to marry (conjugal visits not needed to make it valid) and dead beat dads cannot be denied the right to remarry. Makes the denial of equality to same-sex couples completely indefensible.

  • telemachus

    gary;

    Depends on the definition of marriage, doesn’t it really?

    You assume the changed definition is already in effect when you use the word marriage “equality”.

    In most US states and MD, the current definition of marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that has been determined to be constitutional (no violation of equal protection) in the state of MD.

    Therefore question 6 is not about equal protection, but about changing the definition of marriage from a man and a woman to two unrelated “individuals”.

    What’s interesting about queston 6 in MD is that is doesn’t even tell the voter what the language of the law you are voting on actually is.

  • telemachus

    I wonder if you are saying that you find the language of the actual law referenced in question 6 to be hateful and homophobic, because that is really what your latest post says?

    I think you are becoming a little overwrought…

  • Catken1

    Waaaahhh! I don’t trust that my religious right to hurt other people and exclude them will be protected by government! (Never mind that it already is, in innumerable situations.) Therefore, I get the right to run other people’s lives for them to make sure that they never, ever do something my religion forbids, lest I have to face the small risk that government will someday make my religion approve of them.

  • padre_oso

    This is fundamentally a Constitutional question. What any religious institution, denomination, leader, celeb, or nut case thinks is absolutely irrelevant. It is the State not the Church or the Temple or the Mosque that determines, and as it should and must be, in a civil society what constitues “marriage”. If a particular religion disagrees with such a determination it is free to do but what it is not free to do is impose its theolgical, or mythological reasons on everone else.

  • Richard Gerard Evans

    Although I live in MN, not MD, the principles outlined here are the same, as well as the overt actions of our the local Catholic Archbishop Nienstedt and the idiocy he has been incessantly promoting on this topic. Understand, I respect his office, although I no longer consider myself Roman Catholic and that is largely due to the Church’s mistaken stance on this and numerous other issues over the years.

    I in fact respect him as a person and have had a number of cordial conversatons with him over the years. But he is dead wrong here and it needs to be said loudly. It is also sadand perhaps closer to tragic for a Church to lose her more thoughtful members due to their decision to actually think through topics instead of accepting “easy answers.” Bishop Robinson says it well here.

  • DanaB1

    You are correct in that there is not necessarily any *right* for the federal or state governments to recognize legal marriage or grant any legal or financial benefits based on that legal status. They choose to do so because encouraging stability of relationships is socially beneficial. What is a right, however, according to the Fourteenth Amendment, is the right to be treated legally by the government the same as every other citizen unless there is a valid reason for not doing so. That means that, having chosen to lavish legal and financial benefits on heterosexual couples who avail themselves of the legal status of marriage…regardless of the religious beliefs of said couple or whether any faith at all has “blessed” their union in any religious sense…the government cannot then treat gay couples differently by denying them access to those same benefits without establishing that there is a reason to do so, and if you take religion out of the equation there simply is no such reason.

  • thebump

    Thank God for prophets like Archbishop Nienstedt speaking truth to the fleeting, politically correct idiocies of our day.

  • thebump

    Marriage in its very nature is the union of the two naturally distinct and complementary sexes as husband and wife. That universal truth is rooted in natural law and the most basic facts of life. It transcends societies, faiths, ideologies, traditions, creeds, languages, cultures, races, colors, nationalities, and legal systems. Politicians have no more power to change it than they may repeal the law of gravity.

  • gsmith82

    It’s very encouraging to read a well-reasoned argument from a man of faith in favor of same-sex marriage. Rev. Robinson speaks the truth. The law in Maryland protects the rights and freedoms of religious institutions. Any attempts to convince people otherwise are simply rooted in fear and ignorance. Additionally, there are reasons for religious people, even devoutly religious people, to support this measure. It champions equality and fairness. It champions child welfare and families. It champions a more equitable world in which prejudice is not longer institutionalized. All of those principles can be found in the Bible, and those should be the focus as members of Maryland’s faith communities head to the polls next month.

  • gsmith82

    Actually, homosexuality has been documented in many, many species and is treated as natural in many of them. Also, homosexuality is not a recent phenomenon for mankind. It has been part of society for thousands of years and will continue to be regardless of whether conservatives would like that to be the case. Laws govern the society in which we live, and they ensure that all people are treated equally.

  • Catholic Canuck

    Actually padre, we believe what we’ve always believed. Nothing has changed. By trying to redefine marriage, you and you’re ilk are the ones imposing your ideological rubbish on everyone else. One is left to wonder…if you have to redefine societal norms to fit your worldview, perhaps the norms are just fine, but rather it’s your worldview that needs adjusting?

  • Catholic Canuck

    I wonder if this man has some sort of personal agenda? It’s appalling (yet not surprising) that someone so far from orthodoxy can be considered a leader in a protestant denomination. I guess anyone can become a “bishop” in the episcopal church.

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