Gay rights advocates have drawn a select group of religious leaders to support gay marriage in Maryland ahead of Friday's hearing for the "marriage equality" bill.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has been drawing on the public support of a cherry picked group of leaders representing various faiths, including the Jewish, Catholic, Baptist and Protestant traditions, to make the argument for his 2012 gay marriage bill.
The Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, supports the gay marriage bill and told Protestants and Episcopal followers Wednesday that the Bible should inform their decision to support initiative. The Old Testament scriptures, she explained in The Washington Post, "condemns exploitative sexual activity that is the antithesis of loving, committed relationships," not homosexuality.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton offered a videotaped endorsement of the Maryland bill. Sharpton addressed Marylanders as a minister despite being the host of an MSNBC show.
"As a Baptist minister, I don't have the right to impose my beliefs on anyone else," he said. So if committed gay and lesbian couples want to marry, that's their business."
The bill would give gay and lesbian couples in Maryland the right to marry while enacting protections for religious leaders and churches from lawsuits, loss of state funds or changes in church teachings. A similar bill proposed last year was stalled by both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.
More Maryland ministers, rabbis and nuns expressed their support for gay marriage in a videotaped message on the Marylanders for Marriage Equality website. In the video, they preach the merit and morality of committed marriage for all.
While the bill has garnered support from some religious figures, Maryland Marriage Alliance spokeswoman Julia Vidmar told The Christian Post that Maryland's religious community continues to oppose gay marriage and they are coming together to oppose this year's bill.
Last month, over a 1,000 alliance members protested gay marriage legislation in an Annapolis traditional marriage rally. Before that, alliance members packed out a meeting with pro-family state representatives.
Alliance members represent several Maryland churches as well as bishops from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Maryland Catholic Conference.
Religious leaders from both the Marriage Alliance and Marylanders for Marriage Equality are both expected to testify at the Friday hearing.