Committees in House of Delegates hear testimony on same-sex marriage

February 10, 2012

By Elizabeth Skalski

ANNAPOLIS – Catholic leaders continued their campaign in support of traditional marriage Feb. 10, testifying before members of the House of Delegates against a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. 
The House Judiciary Committee and the House Health and Government Operations Committee held a joint hearing on the controversial measure.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which held its hearing on the bill, was expected to vote Feb. 9 but did not. The House version of the bill was introduced Feb. 1.
The proposed same-sex marriage law, or the Civil Marriage Protection Act, continues to face opposition by faith leaders. 
Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, who testified Feb. 10 in support of same-sex marriage, said “we are a people of many different religions and many different faiths. The only way forward, in a pluralistic society of diverse faiths such as ours, is to have laws that protect and respect the freedom of all, equally.”

O’Malley urged lawmakers to “pass the bill before you and allow our state to move forward with protection for religious freedom and protection for the individual freedom of all.”
The bill which O’Malley, a Catholic, is sponsoring promotes the establishment of a new definition of marriage.
But supporters of traditional marriage argue that marriage is an institution that has preceded law and that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The Rev. Derek McCoy, leader of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, told lawmakers that marriage is “something that’s deeply rooted in the principles of our society.”

“Marriage is a deeply valued societal institution. I do believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” McCoy said.

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said the definition of marriage “isn’t simply a matter of religious belief.”

“This relationship is unique, this relationship is special,” Russell said. “To redefine marriage, it’s not going to protect all families. This is supposed to be a vote of conscience. I beg of you, let this be a vote of conscience.”

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the state’s Catholic bishops in Annapolis and supports the Maryland Marriage Alliance.

Father Erik Arnold, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City, expressed his opposition of same-sex marriage and said that “gender does matter, it really does.”
A similar bill passed in the Senate last year but failed in the House because there weren’t enough votes for the bill to pass. This year’s measure is expected to pass in the Senate but will face a battle in the House.
During the Feb. 10 House hearing, committee members also heard testimony on the Maryland Marriage Protection Act, a bill that would ban same-sex marriage.