ANNAPOLIS – Thursday’s blistering cold did not prevent hundreds of church members from defending their belief that marriage should only be a union between a man and a woman.
Participants came in busloads to the State House, where just two hours earlier Gov. Robert Ehrlich delivered his third State of the State address. They waved signs and bundled in coats, mittens and gloves to support a constitutional amendment to define marriage.
“We believe that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman,” said Delegate Donald Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel, a rally organizer.
Dwyer arranged the rally in response to a July lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Maryland, which is arguing that Maryland’s law preventing same-sex couples from marrying is an unconstitutional violation of civil rights. The case is still pending in Baltimore Circuit Court.
Dwyer and the other participants are supporting a constitutional amendment planned by Delegate Charles Boutin, R-Harford, to define marriage as only between people of opposite sexes.
Boutin tried to win approval for a similar amendment last session, but was told that it was already in Maryland’s constitutional law.
The ACLU suit made Boutin realize, he said, that the law was in jeopardy, and so he plans to reintroduce the measure. A constitutional amendment requires three-fifths votes of both General Assembly chambers and approval from voters.
“I think that this is a subject of such importance that the people of Maryland need to vote on it,” Boutin said.
Gay marriage became an issue when Massachusetts last year allowed homosexual couples to be married. In the November election, voters approved a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts and 10 other states banning gay marriage.
Participants in the rally want the same result in Maryland.
“We want this issue on the ballots,” said Doug Stiegler, executive director of the Family Protection Lobby.
The two-hour rally was full of prayers and shouts of “Hallelujah.” “We thank God for the institution of marriage,” one person prayed.
Some said they were there to protest ACLU claims that homosexual marriage was a civil rights issue.
“This is not a civil rights issue. It’s a sacred rights issue,” said Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church in Bowie.
At the same time, rally organizers wanted to make sure that this was not a gay bashing event.
“We don’t advocate gay bashing,” Jackson said.
Dwyer said all people sin, and homosexuals should not be treated any differently than anyone else.
“We embrace the homosexual citizen. They are no different from any of us,” he said.
Members of the audience were just as vocal in their beliefs.
Bishop Larry Lee Thomas from Saint James Church of the Apostolic Faith in Glen Burnie said he thought more people should stand up for the sanctity of marriage.
“We are challenged with a moral decline in our nation. But the clergy needs to stand up for the righteousness of our country.”
American Civil Liberties Union Maryland spokeswoman Stacey Mink said those at the rally are free to express their viewpoint.
“But we don’t support their message of denying the rights of couples and family.”