October 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Religious leaders urge Md. voters to support marriage law
MacArthur Flournoy, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality speaks in support of Question 6 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 18. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Maryland and D.C. clergy on Thursday urged voters to support the state’s same-sex marriage law during press conferences in Baltimore and in Silver Spring.

“We’re here today to support voting for Question 6,” said Rev. MacArthur Flourney, faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group defending the law, outside St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring. “At the end of the day, we see this as about justice and equality. Really this is about fairness. This is about a matter of the state, civil law protecting all families under the law.”

Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia echoed Flourney during the Silver Spring press conference.

“We cannot in good conscience deny to our gay and lesbian friends and family the same opportunity for companionship, for marriage and for family that we claim for ourselves,” she said. “That is why I support the Civil Marriage Protection Act and will vote for Question 6 this November, as will my congregants.”

Reverend Matt Braddock, senior minister at Christ Congregational United Church of Christ in Silver Spring, spoke about how he and his wife recently celebrated their wedding anniversary at a local restaurant as he urged Marylanders to vote for Question 6.

“My faith believes that the Bible celebrates human expressions of love and partnership and call us to live out that gift of God in responsible, faithful, committed relationships that respect the image of God in all people,” said Braddock. “My faith believes that laws which fail to recognize gay and lesbian marriages contribute to a climate of misunderstanding and division and increased hostility against gays and lesbians and it’s unacceptable. My faith affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should offer civil marriages to all couples who want to share fully and equally in the rights and responsibilities and commitments of legally recognized marriage.”

The press conferences took place the same day Marylanders for Marriage Equality released a new web video that features Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton in Prince George’s County and other prominent black faith leaders from across the country who back Question 6. A Washington Post poll released on Thursday indicates 52 percent of likely Maryland voters would support the state’s same-sex marriage law in the Nov. 6 referendum.

A Maryland Marriage Alliance ad that features Dr. Angela McCaskill, the Gallaudet University administrator suspended earlier this month for signing the petition that prompted a referendum on the same-sex marriage law Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March, claims those “who believe in traditional marriage have been punished.”

The clergy who attended the Silver Spring press conference declined to answer questions about the ongoing controversy over Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz’s decision to place McCaskill, who is the D.C. university’s chief diversity officer, on administrative leave. Coates maintained that the law protects religious freedom.

“The Civil Marriage Protection Act allows us to make sure the government protects all families and all residents of our state equally under the law and at the same time provides sufficient language that allows religious institutions to define the religious rite of marriage in accordance with their beliefs and practices,” said Coates. “There is nothing in the Civil Marriage Protection Act that forces any individual religious clergyperson or religious congregation to perform a same-sex marriage if it’s against their beliefs and practices and yet the legislation ensures that the state protects all residents of our state equally under the law.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, acknowledged Baltimore Archbishop Bill Lori and other area Catholic bishops oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples. She said she is voting for Question 6 because “it nourishes my own moral development.”

“As we grow in the moral right, we sometimes have to make conscience decisions that are at odds with the leaders of our religious denomination,” said Gramick. “I do respect the position of the Catholic bishops on this question, but I disagree with them and I disagree with them because my conscience tells me so. My conscience tells me that social justice teaching in my church… supports equality and dignity for every individual. And so I can apply that social justice teaching of my church to the question of civil marriage for lesbian and gay people. This is not a question of church doctrine. It’s a question of public policy. And in this area of public policy I respectfully disagree with the bishops of my church.”

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington that includes Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties, also acknowledged these differences. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins are among those scheduled to attend a “Marry Protection Rally” at New Harvest Ministries, Inc., in Baltimore on Sunday.

“We know that religious leaders and communities are not of one mind when it comes to marriage equality, said Budde. “It’s important to remember that the Civil Marriage Protection Act strongly preserves religious freedom. No clergyperson will ever be forced to preside at a wedding for anyone. No faith community will be required to go against their religious beliefs.”

Budde also referenced her own faith during the Silver Spring press conference.

“Jesus taught us to love one another as God loves us, not to judge one another and that all human beings are created in God’s image,” she said. “Jesus also taught us that we know one another by our fruits and I can personally testify to the loving example of countless gay and lesbian couples who have been an inspiration to me and my husband in our marriage. And so I am thrilled to stand here in support of Question 6 and invite all Maryland voters to vote yes. If they do, countless Marylanders will be so overjoyed. This is a matter of decency and fairness.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry speaks in support of Question 6 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 18. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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