Bishop Harry R. Jackson, the Maryland minister who led efforts to oppose D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in 2009, jumped head first into the marriage fray in Maryland last week when he delivered a fire and brimstone speech linking gay marriage to “perversion,” “corruption,” and “pollution.”
Jackson spoke out against the same-sex marriage bill pending before the Maryland Legislature at a Jan. 3 spiritual rally organized by the anti-gay Family Research Council at D.C.’s Chevy Chase Baptist Church, which is located on the D.C.-Maryland line.
Jackson’s remarks came just over a week before Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) reiterated on Wednesday his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill in an interview on a local radio show, calling the legislation “an attack on traditional families.”
Miller also reiterated his long-held position of allowing the bill to come up for a vote even though he personally plans to vote against it.
“I don’t want to sound like one of the Republican candidates for president,” he said on the Marc Steiner Show, “but I am what I am.” He said he would vote against the bill while allowing it to come up for a vote on the Senate floor, where he predicted it would pass as it did in a similar vote last year.
LGBT rights groups responded to Miller’s remarks on Thursday.
“Democrat Maryland Senate President Mike Miller is trying to divert attention away from his anti-gay pandering by hiding behind certain conservative candidates, but the truth is he is badly out of step with Marylanders, including Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman, who voted in favor of marriage equality last year and continues to be a champion on this issue,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans in a statement. “Miller’s disrespect for LGBT Maryland families is backwards, and Democrats should hold him accountable for it.”
The National Stonewall Democrats accused Miller of perpetuating GOP myths “claiming equal access to marriage is an attack on ‘traditional families’ and that religious institutions have been forced ‘out of business’ in other states.”
House Speaker Michael Busch (D) this week called the bill an important civil rights measure. But he said supporters will have to persuade “about 10 people that last year wanted more information on the initiative” to vote for it this year. Busch also made his remarks on the Steiner radio show.
Busch said he has not seen any negative effects from D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in either D.C. or in Maryland, where state Attorney General Douglas Gansler said D.C. same-sex marriages could be recognized under state law.
While Jackson appeared poised to be the most visible figure opposing the Maryland marriage bill, political observers said a group called Maryland for Marriage was expected to take the lead in lobbying the legislature to kill the bill.
Most political observers believe Maryland for Marriage is an arm of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). As of this week, its website had not been updated since last summer, when its operators posted several commentaries praising the legislature for “killing” the Maryland marriage bill.
The one updated feature on the site this week was a pop-up box urging its supporters to fill out a form with their contact information to help efforts to defeat the bill this year. The box also offers to send supporters contact information about their elected officials in the state.
NOM executive director Brian Brown was not available for comment on the Maryland bill this week, according to NOM publicist Elizabeth Ray.
Ray said Maryland for Marriage official Derek McCoy would be handling inquires about the Maryland marriage bill. McCoy did not return a call this week seeking comment.
Kevin Nix, spokesperson for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition leading efforts in support of the marriage bill, said the coalition would be monitoring actions by the opposition groups.
“We’re expecting the usual negative attacks and vilification of committed, loving couples and their families,” he said. “It’s par for the course.”
Jackson, a longtime Montgomery County resident who said he moved to D.C. in 2009 to lead the opposition to the D.C. marriage bill, is senior pastor of the Beltsville, Md.-based Hope Christian Church.
The church website shows that Sunday services are held at the Beltsville church as well as at the E Street Cinema located 555 11th St., N.W. in D.C.
It could not be immediately determined whether Jackson currently lists his home in Montgomery County as his legal address. In 2009, Jackson announced he had moved into D.C., where he registered to vote, to enable him to file petitions to hold a voter referendum seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law passed by the D.C. Council and signed by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.
The city’s Board of Elections and Ethics later ruled that a referendum could not be held on the marriage bill because, if approved, it would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Subsequent court rulings upheld the election board decision.
In his Jan. 3 sermon-like speech at Chevy Chase Baptist Church, Jackson lapsed into speaking in tongue, prompting the audience to shout and cheer.
Jackson cited a fundamentalist Christian belief that the devil had sent a figure he referred to as the Queen of Heaven to the D.C. area to create harm. He linked the Maryland marriage equality bill to harm that could be in store for the state.
“The power of the Queen of Heaven bring a malady over this region and has created perversion, pollution,” he said. “In the House of God, we declare that the Queen of Heaven has no authority over Maryland. Jesus is lord in Maryland.”