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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maryland

Activity: 2011-JUL-15 to JUL-22:
Governor O'Malley's support. Catholic opposition.

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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2011-JUL-15: Governor Martin O'Malley commits to supporting SSM bill:

Governor O'Malley (D) made a commitment to push harder to have a SSM bill passed in Maryland as long as it is similar to the bill passed in New York during late 2011-JUN. That bill contained extensive protections for religious organizations and their non-profit affiliates who want to continue to discriminate against the LGBT community. He said:

"I think we can learn from what they did. One of the things we’re looking at in the drafting is how their clauses with regard to religious freedom were different from ours. That might improve our efforts. And I certainly plan to be very active in support of it, and we’ll have other announcements in upcoming months. ... There are times in Annapolis when a governor’s support can move an issue over the goal line.... This is one of those issues that can be resolved, as New York showed, with proper protections in place for religious freedoms." 1

He also said:

"I think New York showed us all that a consensus was possible on this, and this issue continues to evolve at a fast pace in the hearts and minds of citizens." 2

In the past, religious freedom has generally referred to individual's and group's immunity from persecution and oppression relating to their religious beliefs, their freedom of assembly, their freedom to proselytize, to change their religion, etc. However, in the U.S. such freedoms are well protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In recent years, it has rapidly been changing its meaning to refer mainly to their freedom to denigrate and oppress others -- generally women and sexual minorities.

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Governor Martin O'Malley (D) urged to be the 2012 SSM bill's lead sponsor:

Some commentators have suggested that one factor in the defeat of the SSM bill in the House of Delegates earlier in 2011 was the relatively quiet support that Governor O'Malley gave to the bill. He had promised to sign the bill if it was approved by the Legislature but did not publicly advocate for the bill.

State Senator Richard Madaleno, (D-Montgomery County), who is openly gay, has met with the governor to discuss the reintroduction of SSM legislation. Madaleno said:

"The governor is interested in understanding the differences in the bill that passed the Maryland Senate, the new law enacted in New York and what religious exemptions are elsewhere in the country. ... I think there are many people who are hopeful that the governor will decide to introduce this bill next year." 1

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Catholic archbishop attempts to influence governor's decision:

About 2011-JUL-20, Edwin F. O’Brien, archbishop of Baltimore, sent a letter to Governor O'Malley saying that sponsoring the bill would "deeply conflict" with O’Malley’s Catholic faith. O'Brien recommended that O'Malley resist pressure to sponsor the proposed bill. He wrote:

"Maryland is not New York. We urge you not to allow your role as the leader of our state to be used in allowing the debate surrounding the definition of marriage to be determined by mere political expediency. The people of Maryland deserve no less. ... I am well aware that the recent events in New York have intensified pressure on you to lend your active support to legislation to redefine marriage. As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society. ... It is especially hard to fathom your taking such a step, given the fact that our requests last year for you to sponsor legislation to repeal the death penalty and support students in Catholic and other nonpublic schools went unheeded." 35

O'Brien responded to the letter, listing many issues on which he shares the same position as the Catholic Church. But he suggested that:

"... when shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice. ... I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about and to administer the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same-sex couples, you and I disagree. ... I look forward to working with you on other issues of mutual agreement. And I respect your freedom to disagree with me as a citizen and as a religious leader without questioning your motives." 3

There are many religious aspects to SSM in this state:

  • Governor O'Brien is a Catholic.
  • Both presiding officers in the legislature are Catholic.
  • The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consider denying loving, committed same-sex couples the right to marry is a top priority.
  • Most of the Roman Catholic laity support same-sex marriage.

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Governor Martin O'Malley (D) decides to be the 2012 SSM bill's lead sponsor:

On JUL-22, the governor announced that he will be the lead sponsor on the SSM bill in the 2012 General Assembly. It will be one of a handful of bills that will form part of his annual legislative package.

Darrell Carrington, a member of the board of directors for Equality Maryland, said: "I think that would really help build our chances next session if the governor was one of the chief people advocating for this bill vocally, That would have a huge effect on the outcome."

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore) said: "I just think last year the strategy was, quietly get it passed, don’t draw attention to it, let’s just see what we can do."

Religious leaders are divided on the bill. While many mainline, liberal and progressive clergy are strongly supporting SSM, conservative groups are actively opposing it. The Maryland Catholic Conference issued a news release that refers to the Governor's sponsorship of the legislation "regrettable." Spokesperson Kathy Dempsey wrote:

"The moral and social impacts of redefining marriage would be pervasive and severe. Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood disregards the reason why government has always elevated marriage over all other relationships as the fundamental building block of society." 4

She appears to discount the large number of loving, committed same-sex lesbian couples who are having children via artificial insemination, of the many gay couples who are adopting children who would otherwise languish in the foster care system, and of the many gay, lesbian, and bisexual couples who bring their children from earlier failed opposite-sex relationships into their new same-sex relationships. The Roman Catholic Church considers artificial insemination a major sin; their adoption agencies generally do not allow same-sex couples to adopt, and -- above all -- the Church opposes committed same-sex relationships. So the raising of children by loving, committed same-sex couples may well lie beneath their radar.

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Discussion of this topic continues...

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Charles Babington. et al., "Md. Gov. Martin O’Malley expresses support for new gay marriage bill," Associated Press, 2011-JUL-15, at:
  2. John Wagner, "O'Malley inclined to sponsor gay marriage bill," Washington Post, 2011-JUL-15, at:
  3. John Wagner, "O’Malley, archbishop at odds over same-sex marriage, letters show," Washington Post. 2011-AUG-08. at:
  4. Sarah Breitenbach, "Governor to be lead sponsor of gay marriage bill. O’Malley says legislation will also protect the rights of religious groups,", 2011-JUL-22, at:

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > MD > here

Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-MAR
Latest update: 2011-OCT-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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