Church and State: Archbishop Sought to Discourage Gov. from Supporting Marriage Equality
The Catholic Church sought to discourage the governor of Maryland from supporting marriage equality, pressuring Martin O’Malley not to sponsor a marriage equality bill because O’Malley himself is Catholic, Herald-Mail.com reported on Aug. 9.
O’Malley received correspondence last month from the Archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin O’Brien, telling him not to sponsor a marriage equality bill because legal parity for sexual minorities and their families conflicts with the teachings of the Church.
The Catholic Church recognizes that gays do not "choose" to be sexually and romantically attracted to others of the same gender. But the Church also teaches that gays are "disordered" in their ability to relate to others intimately, and condemns sexual expressions of love and devotion between consenting adults of the same gender as "inherently evil."
Marriage equality activists in Maryland had taken note of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership in shepherding a marriage equality bill to law in that state, despite Albany’s reputation as a deeply dysfunctional state capitol -- and in spite of the failure of a similar bill less than two years previously. Marriage proponents gave voice to the hope that O’Malley would take his cue from Cuomo.
A marriage equality measure failed to pass Maryland’s House of Representatives earlier this year, though the state senate approved it. O’Malley had not lobbied lawmakers vigorously for passage of the measure. But after the victory for gay and lesbian families in New York, Maryland’s marriage advocates were reenergized. O’Brien seemingly sought to head off a similar push from the governor’s office in Maryland, writing O’Malley that marriage parity for same-sex families would be harmful to society at large -- a common assertion that has not been borne out in the eight states where marriage equality has been approved, except perhaps insofar as voters in two of those states repealed marriage equality.
In Maine, the law was stricken by plebiscite before it could take effect. But in California, gay and lesbian families saw their existing right to marry yanked from their hands by ballot initiative Proposition 8, which passed at the polls by a narrow margin, and only after a bruising campaign that saw gays and marriage parity made the subjects of an array of false and misleading claims, including insinuations that allowing gays to continue marrying would result in children being "recruited" into homosexuality at school.
"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," a letter from O’Brien to O’Malley read.
But the governor responded with the argument that whatever Church teaching might be, the state should treat gays as the equals of heterosexuals in the eyes of the law.
"[W]hen shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice," O’Malley wrote back to the archbishop.
Gay and lesbian families had withstood the worst of such injustice, O’Malley averred.
"I have concluded that discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation in the context of civil marital rights is unjust," the governor wrote in his letter to O’Brien. "I have also concluded that treating the children of families headed by same-sex couples with lesser protections under the law than the children of families headed by heterosexual parents, is also unjust."
The governor’s office made letters from the Archbishop available to the public on Aug. 8.
On July 22, O’Malley said that he would make marriage parity a priority in 2012.
Catholic officials have attempted in the past to influence the actions of duly elected U.S. legislators by threatening to withhold church sacraments such as communion from lawmakers of that faith tradition who do not reflect Church teachings in their legislative records.
But many Catholic politicians respond instead to the will of their constituents. In recent years, America’s GLBT citizens have enjoyed greater acceptance and gained rights previously denied them based on their sexual orientation.
Many American Catholics, moreover, outrightly reject certain Church positions, including women’s rights and GLBT equality.
Some Maryland politicians have already said that their attitudes about marriage equality are hardened, and they do not expect to become supporters of marriage equality regardless of the New York law or O’Malley’s efforts.
One Republican lawmaker did suggest that if equality advocates were to propose civil unions, that might be more palatable to conservative lawmakers.
"I don’t see it as having a huge impact on what happens here," said State Del. C.T. Wilson of the historic New York vote.
State Del. Nicholaus Kipke told the media that the minds of his colleagues are made up, saying, "The positions of lawmakers are pretty well-entrenched on the issue." But, Kipke said, he would vote in favor of a bill to provide civil unions, which GLBT equality advocates regard as both separate and unequal to full-fledged marriage rights.