- (Photo: baltimorepride.org)
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is set to officiate a mass same-sex wedding ceremony at the annual Baltimore Pride Celebration on June 16, celebrating November's legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland.
"After doing so much work on this – on the ballot initiative – we thought, how do we really celebrate this?" said Pride organizer Carrietta Hiers, who is set marry her partner of nearly 13 years at the ceremony, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Rawlings-Blake's involvement with the event was confirmed by Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for the mayor. This is not the first time Rawlings-Blake will be officiating gay marriages – she presided over several ceremonies after midnight on Jan. 1 when the law went into effect.
"She's been an advocate for us all along," Hiers said of the mayor.
Baltimore Pride 2013 is a three-day event, and is expected to draw couples not only from Maryland but also coming from Atlanta and Philadelphia. Hiers said the mass wedding ceremony will be one of the first of its kind.
Maryland became one of the first states in America to approve of same-sex marriage by voter referendum, when in a close vote on Nov. 7, 52 percent of registered voters said they wanted to see gay marriage legalized, while 48 percent voted "no."
Rawlings-Blake, the 43-year-old Democratic mayor who has held the office since 2010, does not identify her faith on her official website, but has worked with a coalition of ministers in community-building projects in the past.
A number of pro-family groups based in Maryland have often spoken out against redefining traditional marriage as between one man and one woman. The Maryland Marriage Alliance and the Maryland Family Alliance have actively campaigned against the bill that legalized same-sex marriage, and have held rallies and marched in support of marriage and the traditional family unit.
"Regrettably, Marylanders decided by the narrowest of margins not to repeal the law that redefines marriage," the Maryland Catholic Conference said after November's ballot.
"The ballot language they encountered masked the fact that this law does not simply assign civil benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but drastically dismantles in our state law the fundamental family unit of mother, father and child. The people of Maryland were promised that this law would protect religious institutions and individuals who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and we will remain vigilant in ensuring that those promises are upheld."