The Maryland Catholic Conference has expressed its "great disappointment" with Gov. Martin O'Malley's July 22 announcement that he will be the lead sponsor of a same-sex marriage bill in the 2012 General Assembly.
Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the MCC, issued a statement after the governor's announcement and said that the Catholic Church "opposes the redefinition of marriage based on the clear understanding that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. Therefore it is with great disappointment that we learn of Governor Martin O'Malley's decision" to promote legalizing same-sex marriage.
The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the three dioceses with territory in the state - the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington - and advocates the Church's public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials.
Gov. O'Malley, a Catholic, said at an Annapolis news conference last Friday that his push to legalize same-sex marriage is based on his understanding of the principle of "equal protection of the law" and "to protect fundamental freedoms more fully and more completely for all individuals."
Russell, in her statement, said "treating heterosexual and same-sex relationships differently is not unjust discrimination."
"Upholding the truth of marriage furthers the rights and equal dignity of all human persons by promoting a social fabric where children can benefit from the unique gifts of a mother and a father," Russell said.
The governor said his legislation would "protect religious freedom" and not interfere with the "free exercise of religion without government intervention."
The MCC statement said that same-sex marriage "so clearly conflicts with the best interests of our society. "
"The moral and social impacts of redefining marriage would be pervasive and severe," Russell said. "Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood disregards the reasons why government has always elevated marriage over all other relationships as the fundamental building block of society."
During the 2011 session of the General Assembly, a same-sex marriage bill was introduced and passed in the Maryland Senate. It was withdrawn in the House of Delegates after bill sponsors realized they did not have enough votes to pass it. Maryland's renewed effort to redefine marriage comes one month after the New York Legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state.
Russell said that the effort failed in Maryland during the last session because it does not have support of the majority of the state's residents. She called on lawmakers to once again reject the move.
"We continue to urge members of the Maryland General Assembly not to allow this issue to be driven by partisan politics, and to give full and fair consideration to the legitimate reasons why our state should maintain its recognition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman," she said.State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, the Senate minority leader, also issued a statement after the governor's announcement. "I oppose legalizing gay marriage in Maryland and will fight vehemently against Governor O'Malley's initiative to pass this legislation," she said.Also, a coalition of Protestant clergy and churches in the state has vowed to fight the legislation.The group, which said it represents "more than 50,000 concerned citizens," pledged "to maintain the state's current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."
"Gay marriage failed in Maryland earlier this year because the House of Delegates listened to their constituents," the statement said. "This is not about religious exemptions but rather a firm religious and historical tenant that brings incredible good to society."
For more information about the Catholic Church's position on marriage, go to the Maryland Catholic Conference's website at www.mdcathcon.org.