By REV. DELMAN COATES
As a visible advocate and local supporter of Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act, I congratulate everyone who took part in the historic victory for marriage equality in Maryland. It was a long road and everyone who shared a personal story, asked a neighbor to vote, made a donation, or came out on election day was crucial in achieving this historic victory. Thanks and congratulations also go to the brave individuals, committed advocates and elected officials who have been involved in this battle for many years.
As Marylanders reflect upon the kind of leaders poised to provide visionary leadership in the future, they will remember those who demonstrated courage during the marriage equality battle this year. Marylanders need champions who are not ashamed to take bold and principled stances, even when it is not popular. Public and visible support by elected officials for Question 6 is a barometer for the kind of leaders committed to being public advocates for policies that will benefit all people.
It is with that in mind that I have been particularly impressed with the advocacy of Del. Heather Mizeur. As a leading voice in support of Question 6, I worked closely with Del. Mizeur on this issue and witnessed firsthand her vocal and visible advocacy in all communities across our state. Since my work on this issue began, I personally observed her tireless dedication to this cause. She fought for years to persuade skeptical colleagues in Annapolis, and she pushed them to endorse marriage equality when they thought civil unions were enough. She spoke at churches and house parties, and organized rallies and door knocking campaigns. This issue is personal for her and her wife, and her actions indicated to this advocate how seriously she took this cause.
In the weeks following victories for marriage equality across this nation, I was quite disappointed to see a quote from Josh Levin in your profile of Del. Mizeur’s potential run for governor calling into question her work ethic, resolve and commitment on Question 6. I am not naïve enough to think any single individual was solely responsible for this win. It was indeed a collective effort. But to use such a high moment to take such a low blow is really quite unbecoming and is a distortion of the facts. Rather than attempting to impugn the record of someone who was a very visible and vocal advocate for equal rights for gay and lesbian Marylanders, the real question is where were other potential gubernatorial candidates on this issue? Were they visible and vocal public advocates for marriage equality, or were they just silent supporters who did not want to offend potential voters who disagreed with the issue? I and many others will be wondering whether people like Levin will hold other potential candidates for governor to the same standard, or were his comments merely an attempt to play politics by pulling someone else down?
It seems to me that Marylanders will look back on this year and will consider public advocacy on Question 6 as a litmus test for the next pool of candidates for the state’s highest office. Del. Mizeur’s work on Question 6 and her commitment to a better Maryland are models for the rest of us that I find inspiring. Let us use this victory to foster civility in our society to make our world a better place.
Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D., is senior pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md.