TEMPLE HILLS – A number of organizations announced the creation of a new interfaith coalition on Wednesday that will oppose same-sex marriage during the 2012 legislative session in Annapolis.
A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was narrowly defeated in 2011. Both sides started preparing immediately for 2012, and vowed to return more organized and with increased support. Gov. Martin O’Malley has promised to take a more prominent role and will sponsor a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
But members of the Maryland Marriage Alliance believe that marriage should be defined solely as a union between one woman and one man, and that protecting traditional marriage is vital for society.
“Our nation has thrived on the fabric of the family,” said Pastor Joel Peebles of Jericho City of Praise in Landover.
The group is recruiting interfaith religious leaders and community members who will urge their legislators to vote against the legalization of gay marriage. The Maryland Marriage Alliance is led by Pastor Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Family Alliance.
Coalition members say that changing the definition of marriage would impede on religious freedoms.
“It is not discrimination to treat fundamentally different things differently,” said Deacon Douglas Al Turner, director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Washington.
The issue of same-sex marriage has been heavily debated in Maryland and around the nation for the past few years.
During the 2010 legislative session, several bills were introduced that opposed same-sex marriage. One bill invalidated same-sex marriages that were entered into legally in other states or countries. A second bill would have essentially brought the question of same-sex marriage to Maryland voters. Both bills failed.
In 2011, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed in the Maryland Senate. Many expected the bill would pass without problems through the House, which is traditionally more liberal than the Senate. However, pressure from constituents and religious groups caused several delegates to have doubts, and the bill ultimately failed.
The defeat of the same-sex marriage bill in the 2011 session galvanized both sides of the debate.
“When it became more obvious that the threat was real, the faith community and other supporters of marriage rose up,” said Pastor Victor Kirk of Sharon Bible Fellowship in Lanham, and a representative of the Prince George’s Baptist Ministers Association.
Proponents have also been organizing support.
Groups such as Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of political, religious and community groups, are working to legalize same-sex marriage. Members of Marylanders for Marriage Equality include the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Equality Maryland and community members who support same-sex marriage.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research group, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia have all legalized same-sex marriage. California is in the midst of a legal battle over same-sex marriage.
Maryland Marriage Alliance members say that the near success of the bill last year has made some same-sex marriage supporters feel like passage is all but inevitable next year.
“We have something to say about that inevitability, and with all humility let me say, bring it on,” Kirk said.