BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley received a warm reception as he addressed an audience of nearly 400 Catholics who attended the New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium of Catholicism and Homosexuality at Baltimore’s Renaissance Inner Harbor Hotel on March 16. New Ways Ministry, based in Mount Rainier, Md., is a national Catholic organization that focuses on LGBT issues.
O’Malley, a practicing Catholic, opened his brief remarks by stating, “I did not come here as a Catholic. I came here as the governor of all of Maryland.”
Acknowledging that Maryland is comprised of citizens who represent a variety of backgrounds including different ethnicities, perspectives, traditions and faith traditions, O’Malley said, “we should expect and demand from all our leaders … to protect rights equally among all people.”
O’Malley discussed Baltimore’s important place in history especially during the War of 1812 and its connection to the Star-Spangled Banner. “The flag had been stitched together by black and white hands here in Baltimore. And the thread that stitched those stars and stripes together was the thread of human dignity.”
He added that we all want the same things for our kids: we want them to live in a loving, caring, committed and stable home protected equally under the law. “For a people of many different faiths, for a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always to be found through greater respect for the equal rights of all; for the human dignity of all.”
He added, “The very reason for Maryland’s founding was for religious freedom. And at the heart of religious freedom is respect for the freedom of individual conscience.”
The governor indicated the passage of the marriage equality bill in the General Assembly was “based on the fundamental beliefs, the fundamental principles we share, foremost among them is our belief in the dignity of every individual.”
O’Malley acknowledged the referendum battle ahead. “In Maryland, we were able to find a way to protect individual civil marriage rights and religious freedom. And while it is likely to be challenged on the ballot, I believe that ultimately the voters…will come down on the side of human dignity.”
Appropriately, O’Malley concluded his address on a religious note.
“The mystery of human existence; the mystery of our own relationships with one another; the mystery of our own individual relationships with the creator of creation … these are deep, deep mysteries. Every person must search for the truth that is at the center of that mystery. This search requires individual freedom. And it also requires religious freedom.”
The symposium was titled, “From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics & Relationships” and was held March 15-17. It received the endorsement of 45 national Catholic organizations. Many of the nearly 400 attendees were priests and nuns and all of them active leaders in their church communities.
Other speakers included former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson from Australia and Barbara Johnson, the lesbian denied communion at her mother’s funeral in Gaithersburg.
“As Catholics, we are proud of Gov. O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry. “His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all. We are happy to have this opportunity to thank him for his work and to show how faithful Catholics support full equality for LGBT people.”
The organization came under fire by Cardinal Edmund F. O’Brien who said, “In no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching.”
In response, DeBernardo told the Blade, “Thousands of Catholic people and hundreds of Catholic institutions from across the country continue to support our programs and attend our events. They recognize that what we are doing is authentically Catholic.”