Category Archives: Maryland General Assembly

Church leaders not sitting on sidelines in MD gay marriage debate

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, speaks in support of traditional marriage during a Nov. 30 press conference at First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

There’s no doubt that same-sex marriage is going to be the hot-button issue in Annapolis next year.

Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a Catholic, has already said he will sponsor  legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland – sparring with Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien over his high-profile attempt to fundamentally alter the definition of marriage.

Gay marriage came close to passing last session, but was ultimately defeated on the last day of the session after the state’s interfaith leaders made a push against the controversial measure.

Religious leaders plan to do even more in the coming 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11.

During a press conference last week at the First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore, people of many faiths – Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others – came together to announce the formation of the nonpartisan Maryland Marriage Alliance. They promised they will not sit still as the governor tries to push gay marriage through the General Assembly.

Two speakers struck me with a message that combined tough resolve with respect for all people.

Bishop Angel Nuñez of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore called out the governor by name, noting that the governor’s “pretty words” will not change the fact that marriage is between one man and one woman. Bishop Nuñez went on to address what he believes true tolerance is about.

“Traditional tolerance respects and accepts the individual without necessarily approving of or participating in his or her beliefs and behavior,” he said. “That is what we have done and will continue to do.”

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, echoed that point, noting that no one supports discrimination against homosexuals. The current laws of Maryland, she said, “reflect an appropriate balance between preserving the special role of traditional marriage in the creation and upbringing of our future generations of children, and the granting of rights to other committed couples.”

“It is not discrimination to treat fundamentally different things differently,” Russell said.

You can hear the statements of Bishop Nuñez and Russell below.  Also, Russell will be giving a Theology on Tap presentation tonight at the Greene Turtle in Fells Point regarding same-sex marriage in Maryland.  There’s more information here.

This is just the beginning of what is going to be a very passionate debate over the next several months.  If gay marriage is signed into law, it will surely go to referendum.  What’s your opinion?

Bishop Angel Nuñez:

Mary Ellen Russell:



MD braces for gay marriage fight; NY archbishop worries about what’s next

In the wake of a failed effort to block gay marriage from becoming law in the Empire State, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is raising concerns about what might be on the horizon. Check out what he wrote in a recent blog:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Veterans my age and over can remember sixty years ago when we fought widespread, no-fault divorce, convinced it would lead to a cheapening of the marriage bond and harm our kids (as, of course, scholarly studies now report has, indeed, happened).  Recall how the Church resisted the “contraceptive mentality,” fearing it would rupture the sacred bond between love and the procreation of children.  Then, remember how the Church sounded the alarm over rising rates of promiscuity, adultery, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation prior to or instead of marriage.  And now we ring the steeple bell again at this latest dilution of the authentic understanding of marriage, worried that the next step will be another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity.

If you think I’m exaggerating, within days of the passage of this bill, one major newspaper ran a flattering profile of a proponent of what was called “nonmonogamy.” Apparently, “nonmonogamy” is the idea that society is unrealistic to think that one man and one woman should remain faithful in marriage, and that openness to some infidelity should be the norm!

Reflecting on the campaign against legalized gay marriage, Archbishop Dolan expressed thanks to “those courageous millions who valiantly fought this unfortunate project of social engineering.” He also apologized to anyone in the gay community who felt hurt by the Church’s campaign.

“We tried our best to insist from the start that our goal was pro-marriage, never anti-gay,” he said.

Supporters of traditional marriage demonstrate in Annapolis prior to a March 11 debate in the House of Delegates to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Meanwhile, it’s looking like Maryland is about to go through a similar battle as advocates prepare to launch another all-out effort to pass same-sex marriage here.

Gay marriage almost became a reality during the last legislative session, but fell short at the last minute when it became clear there weren’t enough votes. Maryland’s bishops had taken a lead role in opposing the effort, joining forces with other faith leaders.

A statewide coalition of groups including Equality Maryland, Progressive Maryland, SEIU, CWA, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and others plan to announce the launch of Marylanders for Marriage Equality – a statewide coalition in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

According to a July 8 advisory, the coalition is planning a July 12 press conference at Baltimore’s City Hall to announce a campaign to “work with allies to secure the votes necessary for passage of a civil marriage equality bill in the 2012 legislative session.”

What happened in New York is bound to loom large in the Free State.

Get tweeted updates on today’s big vote on same-sex marriage

Today, the Maryland House of Delegates has its final debate on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.  If the delegates vote in favor of the measure, the bill will become law since it has already cleared the Senate and Gov. Martin J. O’Malley has promised to sign it.

Supporters of traditional marriage plan to have a major presence in Annapolis while the delegates do their work. A peaceful prayer vigil is planned at the State House beginning at 10 a.m.  (See story here).

I will be in Annapolis all day covering this critical issue.  I’m going to do some live tweeting as events unfold.  You can follow me at

Senate committee sends gay-marriage bill to floor

On a 7-4 vote, the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee agreed to send a bill legalizing same-sex marriage to the Senate floor. The full chamber is expected to debate the measure the week of Feb. 21, with the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) projecting a final vote to take place Feb. 28.

In a written statement released after the Feb. 17 committee vote, the MCC said the measure (Senate Bill 116) would “redefine marriage in our state and drastically alter a social institution that derives from our human nature as men and women.”

The MCC said that although the committee added limited religious exemption amendments, the bill continues to provide no protections for an individual’s religious freedoms, “such as those of a clerk forced to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.”

“More importantly,” the statement said, “our fundamental concern about redefining marriage is for the sake of our whole society, and particularly for children and their elemental desire to know and ideally to be raised and loved by their biological mother and father.”

The MCC said that “stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from law the right of a child to a mother and father and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships.”

Catholic leaders have taken a strong stance against same-sex marriage and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien has repeatedly called on Catholic voters to contact their lawmakers on the issue.

An intense debate is expected in the Senate, where the bill is one vote short of approval. There are only a handful of senators who have not stated their position on the issue.

If the measure is approved in the Senate and wins support in the House of Delegates, Gov. Martin J. O’Malley has promised to sign it into law.


Eye-opening enrollment trends signal need for BOAST

The Maryland Catholic Conference is gearing up once again to make a major push for passage of a business tax credit known as BOAST (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers).

Long a top priority of the legislative lobbying arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, BOAST would give businesses a 75 percent state income-tax credit in exchange for their donations to groups that provide scholarships for nonpublic school students. It would also help nonpublic schoolteachers and enrichment programs in the public schools.

BOAST came close to becoming a reality last year, receiving the endorsement of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and a 30-17 favorable vote in the Senate. Yet, the measure was thwarted in the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, where Chairwoman Sheila Hixson stymied the bill. It was defeated on a 14-7 committee vote.

Ellen Robertson, the Catholic Conference’s associate director for education and family life, is convinced there are plenty of votes to pass the bill on the House floor if it could just get out of committee. She contends that the measure is needed now more than ever as Catholic schools struggle with declining enrollment.

Robertson isn’t alone. In a 2010 written statement, Gov. O’Malley wrote that the BOAST bill would increase scholarships for children in low- and middle-income families, helping to stabilize enrollment in nonpublic schools.

“I believe the bill is crucial if we are to stem the tide of private school closures in the state.” Gov. O’Malley said.

He wrote that school closures “represent a loss of educational diversity and opportunity for our students and will ultimately increase costs and enrollment pressures on our public school systems.”

Catholic schools alone save the state more than $713 million in annual per-pupil costs, according to the Catholic Conference.

Below, check out these startling enrollment reports prepared by the Maryland Catholic Conference. If you think Catholic schools are a vital part of Maryland’s educational system, contact your state representatives today and tell them to support BOAST.

As always, stay with The Catholic Review for much more on this important story in the coming months.

Forty one Catholic schools have closed in Maryland since 2002. (Maryland Catholic Conference graph)

Total Catholic school enrollment in Maryland has declined from 64,283 in 2002-03 to 52,875 in 2010-11. (Maryland Catholic Conference graph)

(Maryland Catholic Conference graph)

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