Metro Weekly

Civil Response

O'Malley responds to archbishop's opposition to marriage equality

Maryland Catholics for Equality recently applauded Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s (D) Aug. 4 response to an archbishop asking the governor to ”refrain” from supporting legislation that would secure marriage equality for same-sex couples.

”I think the tide is turning, more or less, when the governor is coming out in public support and actually generated this response to the arch bishop,” says Manley Calhoun of Maryland Catholics for Equality.

Martin O'MalleyBaltimore’s Archbishop Edwin O’Brien wrote to the governor, days before the governor was to announce his support for marriage legislation in 2012, asking him to ”refrain” from supporting such a measure.

”With great concern I write to urge you to refrain from using the power of your office to promote the redefinition of marriage in Maryland,” O’Brien wrote, according to CBS News. “We speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith.”

O’Malley responded in his Aug. 4 open letter that it is his duty to represent Marylanders of all beliefs.

”As governor, I am sworn to uphold the law without partiality or prejudice,” O’Malley wrote, in part. ”When shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice.

”I have concluded that discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation in the context of civil martial rights is unjust. 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.”

Calhoun says the governor’s statements complement a recent poll by Equality Maryland showing a majority of Catholics in the state support marriage-equality legislation.

”He may be Catholic, and I’m sure he supports many of those values, but this is something where we’re looking at a civil marriage, not a religious one. We’re not looking to force the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter, to bless unions. That’s actually not the role of Maryland Catholics for Equality. We’re a political organization.”

Patrick Wojahn, board chair of the Equality Maryland Foundation, spoke similarly.

”I think that Archbishop O’Brien needs to understand that the civil definition of marriage is exactly that, it’s a ‘civil’ definition of marriage. It’s not in any way an effort to convince the Catholic Church that they should change their practice or change their beliefs.”

”What Gov. O’Malley has proposed is to recognize fairness and equality under the civil laws of the state of Maryland.”

Reacting to O’Malley’s Aug. 4 letter, Wojahn says he is pleased. He adds that he is somewhat troubled, however, about the possibility of a referendum effort should marriage equality become law in 2012.

”I do have concerns that the Catholic Church may support a referendum. On the other hand, I think if they were to do that, they would be out of step with their members and out of step with the majority of residents in the state of Maryland.”