O’Malley: Md. Marriage Equality Law Protects Religious Freedom

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Friday March 16, 2012

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told a group of progressive Catholics in Baltimore on Friday that his state's marriage equality law upholds both individual and religious freedom.

"At the end of the day, all of us want the same thing for our kids-we want our children to grow up in caring, committed and loving homes, protected equally under the law," he said in a speech that he delivered during the New Ways Ministry's seventh symposium at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. "Our success in this recent debate in the Maryland General Assembly was a success that was based on those fundamental beliefs, those fundamental principles that we share-foremost among them in our belief in the dignity of every individual."

O'Malley, who is Catholic, received standing ovations as he entered the hotel ballroom and took the stage to deliver his speech. He specifically thanked New Ways Ministry for their support of the marriage equality bill.

"Thank you especially for your voice in the debate that we just concluded in the General Assembly of Maryland on the issue of how we will protect freedom of religions and rights equally," said O'Malley.

Maryland is among eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is also Catholic, in February signed a bill that will allow same-sex couples to legally marry in the Evergreen State. New Jersey lawmakers also approved a similar measure last month, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. Rhode Island legislators introduced a bill in February that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in the Ocean State.

New Hampshire lawmakers on March 21 are scheduled to vote on a bill that would repeal their state's marriage equality law. North Carolina voters in May will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban nuptials for gays and lesbians. Minnesotans will vote on a similar measure in November, while Maine voters will consider a referendum that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

Former Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien was among those who lobbied against Maryland's marriage equality bill, but a national Public Religion Research Institute poll last May found that 56 percent of white Catholics and 53 percent of Latino Catholics support nuptials for gays and lesbians. The same survey found that nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch are among the other Catholic governors who have also signed marriage equality bills into law. Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) is among the Catholic lawmakers who voted to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot in the Free State.

"I'm not here as a Catholic, I'm here as the governor for all of Maryland," said O'Malley. "What we should expect and demand of all of our leaders is that when they take an oath to uphold the constitution it is to protect rights equally of all people... and that's really what this is all about."

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the governor's remarks.

"As Catholics, we are proud of Gov. O'Malley's ardent support of marriage equality," he said. "His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism's legacy of social justice for all."

Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, applauded O'Malley's stance on the issue after he signed the marriage equality bill into law on March 1.

"Without his pro-equality leadership, this legislation would have reached his desk today," said Attey.

Maryland's marriage equality law is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, pending the outcome of a likely referendum that will challenge the statute. O'Malley cited the state's founders who sought to create a refuge from religious persecution as he expressed optimism that Marylanders will vote against the ballot measure.

"I truly believe that ultimately the voters of our state will once again, as they have many times before throughout our history together, come down on the side of human dignity," he said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.