Marriage equality is inevitable in Maryland. It’s a matter of when, not if, and to me, there’s no time like the present. As a straight, black pastor in Westminster, let me tell you how I came around to supporting marriage for committed, loving gay and lesbian couples.
My faith compels me to advocate for the thousands of same-sex couples in Maryland to marry and raise their kids in a home that is protected under the law. My understanding of Scripture is that God embraces, loves and accepts us all. And every American deserves to have the opportunity to build stable, strong families through marriage.
Let me be clear. Religious liberty — the ability for every citizen to exercise his or her faith — is at the foundation of this great country. This, of sacred principles, must and will be protected.
What same-sex marriage proponents support only involves gay couples getting a marriage license at the courthouse, not at church. Clergy who do not agree with gay marriage will not have to perform one. What happens in church would continue to be up to that church. There is plenty of room in Maryland for religious freedom and equality under the law. The two can go hand in glove.
We all know there is a very vocal cadre of clergy who oppose marriage equality. But the reality is that the faith community in the Free State is, in this day and age, divided on the issue. These days, younger generation evangelical Christians are more likely to support marriage equality than their elders, though even people in their 50s and 60s are shifting their views.
A majority of Catholics favor marriage equality. Once congregants and faith leaders have conversations — and once they see or meet a lesbian couple, for instance, who has been together for 20 years and is raising a child — they get it. They see the issue in moral terms — that it's only right and just for gay couples to build a stable family and have that precious child protected under the law.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has indicated that marriage equality is one of his priorities, along with jobs. His laudable leadership and clear commitment will help to pass a marriage equality bill through the legislature.
In addition, the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition has attracted a number of allies, including SEIU 1199, AFL-CIO (Md/D.C. division), NAACP of Baltimore and a growing chorus of clergy. It is building a grass-roots operation to show legislators there is a groundswell of support for marriage equality among their constituents — be they straight or gay; black, white or Latino; liberal or conservative; faithful or secular.
One such constituent is Irene Huskens, a Prince George’s County police officer for 17 years who served in the U.S. Air Force. She fought to protect our freedoms overseas but does not have the freedom to get married here at home simply because she is a lesbian. Something is wrong with this picture.
Based on my many years of pastoring, the people in this state, including in the African-American community, are changing their minds on marriage equality. Marylanders from all walks of life realize gay and lesbian couples share the same values — fairness and family — and like the rest of us are trying to build a better life for their kids.
The Rev. Larry Brumfield is interim pastor of Friendship Church of Brethren in Linthicum and is a founding member of the Maryland Black Family Alliance.