Edwin O'Brien, Baltimore's soon-to-be Cardinal, used a speech this week to denounce marriage rights for Maryland's gay and lesbian couples. He angrily attacked the pending passage of marriage bills in the House and Senate. Maryland's Governor, Martin O'Malley, is a strong supporter of marriage equality and he helped to introduce the bills this past Tuesday.
On Wednesday, O'Brien put his own spin on one of the most heinous arguments put forth by social and religious conservatives -- that gay people's civil rights are an affront to black people and the rights of black people. He stammered through his divisive proclamation, saying (Catholic Review):
"We are going to be strong in upholding the institution of marriage as a bond between one man and one woman, open to life. It's been not only our teaching, but it's been the core of our Western culture for as long as anybody can remember. And to think that a fiat of a legislature can turn that over without damage being done is naive and highly political.
"So, we will do everything that we can on our own, in conjunction with other religious groups --. Our African-American community, I think, is very strong on this issue as we are. And I think, to some degree, they're a little concerned to call this a matter of discrimination.
"Racial discrimination is discrimination because of the pigment of the skin [rubs back of hand]. And it can't be tolerated. But marriage goes far deeper than the pigment of the skin. It goes to the very roots of our culture. And we are in it to -- for keeps.
"I think in 30 areas of the country, 30 states where legislatures have passed this, the people's vote has voided it, has knocked it down. And we believe that we have a strong grassroots coalition here, that will uphold the sanctity of marriage in the traditional teaching and long-term practice of marriage between man and a woman."
Political maneuvers like Obrien's are frequently used by the opponents of gay equality to alarm and anger African Americans. He may have singled out African American voters for special appeal because black residents represent about 29% of the population of Maryland (more than twice the national percentage).
O'Brien's small-minded argument completely ignores the fact that: 1) there are people who are both black and gay, 2) not all African Americans agree with O'Brien's anti-gay political beliefs, 3) many churches in Maryland want to perform legal marriage ceremonies for gay couples, and 4) a large portion of Maryland's Catholic parishoners disagree with the Church's discriminatory stance.
These manipulative foes of gay rights seem to be conveying a devious message that goes something like this: "Homosexuals are abhorrent and have been disliked throughout history. Today homosexuals are trying to attach themselves to the accomplishments of black people. If black people allow this association to happen, it will drag down black people's position in society and diminish all the civil rights for which they have fought so hard. Gay people cannot be victims of discrimination because they choose to be different through their behavior. However, black people are discriminated against because of their skin color. And skin color is not a choice; it is not changeable -- yet sinful behavior is, right? Therefore, we anti-gay preachers think you proud African Americans need to rail against homosexuals now, because they are going to be ruinous, not only to your lives and religious freedoms, but to all of civilization itself. Proof is in the Bible, right? 'Marriage = man and woman. Gays = abomination. Sodom = destroyed.' And we all know that, 'The church is the heart and soul of the black community,' right? So, then, since we're all in this together, let's vote for our tried-and-true tradition of denying gays legal rights and social equality. We're not bigots. We don't hate anybody. It is not hate -- it is God's Word."
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has joined several other political and religious groups to set up a rally to continue denying gay people their marriage rights. It is to be held in Annapolis on Monday, January 30, 6-8 pm, next to the Governor's Mansion.
On Sunday, January 29, a pro-gay marriage event is to be held in Frederick, MD, that will include Attorney General Doug Gansler, two Delegates, and representatives from welcoming chruches. The event will be at the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ, 15 W. Church Street, Frederick, MD, 5-6pm.
One recent survey did indicate that gay marriage supporters may indeed have a tough battle at the ballot box in November should an anti-gay marriage referendum arise. Survey respondents were split on legalization of gay marriages -- 49% in favor and 47% opposed. The author of that survey also singled out African-American voters as the key opponents to marriage equality.
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