A member of Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team in 2012 wrote marriage rights for same-sex couples in his state would jeopardize religious freedom.
“Religious institutions, businesses, and people with religious values opposing same sex marriage will be coerced into accepting gay marriage and its benefits, or face the threat of litigation and state sanctions should the referendum pass,” wrote state Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) in an op-ed the Herald-Mail newspaper published two days before Maryland voters approved the state’s same-sex marriage law.
Shank in his op-ed cited cases involving a New Mexico photographer who refused to shoot a same-sex wedding ceremony and a lesbian couple from Ocean Grove, N.J., who sued a Methodist association after it refused to allow them to use a pavilion for their 2007 civil union ceremony. The Washington County Republican also referenced Gallaudet University’s decision to place Angela McCaskill on administrative leave after administrators learned she had signed the petition in support of the referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.
“Extrapolating these current trends, one can reasonably assume it won’t be long before advocates start to threaten churches who won’t offer gay marriages,” wrote Shank. “Currently they are fully utilizing the machinery of the state to coerce ‘non-believers,’ all in the name of ‘tolerance’ of course.”
LGBT rights advocates repeatedly asserted during the Question 6 campaign the same-sex marriage law does not compel clergy or religious congregations to perform gay unions.
“Before believing the claims that churches are protected in Maryland, one should examine the national record and where these trends are taking us,” wrote Shank in his op-ed. “Increased hostility to people of conscience and religious institutions will surely result in Maryland should this ballot question pass. Marylanders concerned about protecting our state’s proud record on religious tolerance would be advised to think twice about this ballot question and to vote no on Question 6.”
Shank earlier this year voted against a bill banning discrimination against transgender Marylanders that took effect on Oct. 1.
The Washington County Republican did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.
Hogan — who was a member of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s administration — last month stunned political observers when he defeated Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in the state’s gubernatorial race.
Hogan said during an August interview that his position on marriage rights for same-sex couples had “evolved.” He also said he would not seek to repeal Maryland’s gay nuptials law that took effect nearly two years ago.
Blair Lee, a Silver Spring developer who is also a member of Hogan’s transition team, in 2012 described gay sex as a “mortal sin” in a column against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law he wrote for the Gazette newspapers. The Montgomery County Democrat in a 2006 column compared gays to pedophiles and serial killers.
Hogan did not return the Blade’s request for comment on Shank’s comments on the state’s same-sex marriage law.