As the New Year approaches, Christian leaders strategizing for a showdown over the definition of marriage in Maryland say it is essential to awake “the sleeping giant” called the church to counter gay activists and preserve religious freedom.
Maryland Marriage Alliance leader Derek McCoy told The Christian Post gay marriage is a critical religious freedom concern for Christians and people of faith.
When it comes to gay marriage, he said of gay activists, “They would like us (Christians) to get in a box and not be able to express our individual faith, not to be able to have freedom of worship, not to be able to have freedom of speech as is already guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
That is why McCoy believes pastors are going to be the greatest asset in Maryland’s upcoming fight for traditional marriage.
“I don’t think that the average Christian really understands what going on today,” he said. “That’s why the pastors are so critical and [that is] the reason we spend so much time working with them because the sleeping giant is the church.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged in July to make state legislation legally recognizing same-sex marriage his top priority in the upcoming legislative session. According to the Baltimore Sun, O'Malley told reporters at a press conference, "Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home protected under the law."
The state’s attempt to pass legislation redefining marriage in the spring was stalled in the House of Delegates. During that time, the governor supported the legislation, but did not publicly advocate for its passage.
In the fall, the governor and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake renewed their efforts by appearing in videos encouraging Marylanders to embrace gay marriage. Also in January, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is holding its LGBT Equality conference in Baltimore. The topics of the upcoming conference include countering religious-based bigotry.
McCoy described Maryland as a Democratic town with a strong Catholic heritage and a large African-American population that greatly opposes the governor’s push for gay marriage.
The Maryland Catholic Conference released a statement after O’Malley’s press conference stating, "The moral and social impacts of redefining marriage would be pervasive and severe."
MCC noted that gay marriage legislation will disrupt the family unit. Evangelicals and Protestant Christian leaders said that the legislation would also disrupt how Christians exercise their faith and teach it to their children.
“It’s not about [marriage] equality, it’s about changing the definition, which changes so many other things for society from a familial standpoint, from a family standpoint but also from a freedom of expression and a freedom of worship and a freedom of speech [standpoint],” McCoy argued.
He said if marriage is redefined to include homosexual couples, activists will push change on the surrounding culture in order to accommodate their new-found rights.
When the definition changes, McCoy said, the state and gay activists get to say, "Anything you say against it (gay marriage) is hate speech and oh by the way, I get to indoctrinate every child from the earliest age – from kindergarten on up – about what marriage should be based on this new definition.”
McCoy said businesses will also be negatively affected by gay marriage legislation.
“There are businesses that are being shut down to a degree or not really be able to have the freedom and the liberty to do what they believe in because of this air of what they call bigotry,” he explained.
McCoy described a New Mexico photographer who was sued for declining to conduct a same-sex marriage photography shoot.
Gov. O’Malley, a Catholic, promised state residents that Maryland’s gay marriage bill will include protections for religious freedom and would allow for the “free exercise of religion without government intervention."
However, Peter Breen, executive director of conservative law firm the Thomas More Society, said those protections are not guaranteed.
When the state of Illinois passed the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act to give resident gay couples joined in civil unions equal rights while protecting religious freedom, Breen’s client Catholic Charities was pushed out of business. The faith-based adoption agency was denied state contracts after 50 years of service because it would not allow gay or unmarried couples to adopt or foster children. The policy is a reflection of Catholic beliefs.
“The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act only passed after specific assurances that the law would not impact the work of religious social service agencies,” he said.
“Specific protections for these agencies were written into the law, but unfortunately, Illinois officials refused to abide by those protections. This stands as a stark lesson to the rest of the nation that legislators promising ‘religious protection’ in same-sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises.”
McCoy said Democratic and Republican legislators are already coming together to block a potential gay marriage bill.
“Our number one objective is to kill the bill legislatively,” he said.
If legislators cannot stop the bill, McCoy said Maryland churches and faith communities must be to ready to lead referendum efforts.
McCoy’s marriage alliance is encouraging pastors and church leaders to talk to their congregations about the ensuing battle over marriage.
“If the pastors don’t do this, the people will go extremely uneducated on this issue and they’ll slowly see their own personal freedoms erode,” he warned.