FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friend-of-the-Court Brief Filed by Clergy Urges Court to Provide Marriage Protections for All Families
BALTIMORE - Religious leaders from throughout the state convened today at a local church to express their support for providing same-sex couples with the legal protections of marriage. The gathering took place on the eve of a hearing on the constitutionality of Maryland law that bars same-sex couples from marriage. The lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union with the support of Equality Maryland, the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, was filed on behalf of nine same-sex couples and a recently widowed man.
"It's inherently unfair to me that members of my congregation who attend services every Sunday with their children are forced to go without protections that my wife and I take for granted," said Andrew Foster Connors, Minister of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, where the event was held, and where plaintiffs Lisa Polyak and Gita Dean are members. "While religious groups will always be free to marry who they please, I welcome the day when I will be able to marry committed couples like Lisa and Gita."
The event was attended by more than 40 religious leaders representing wide range of religions and denominations, including Baptist, conservative rabbis, Methodist, Lutherans and Catholics. Following brief remarks by Rev. Connors, Rev. Anthony McCarthy of Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore, Rabbi Bradd Boxmann of Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills, Rev. Dr. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, and Rev. Victoria R. Sirota of Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, the leaders signed a joint statement supporting the ability of same-sex couples to marry.
"As I've seen firsthand many times in my congregation, gay and lesbian couples make lasting commitments to each other, build families together and take responsibility for each other just like heterosexual couples," said Rev. John R. Deckenback, the Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Christ. "It's unfair for our state to treat them differently. They need the same kinds of protections for their families that others rely on."
Many of the religious leaders present also signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief that was filed in support of the ACLU's lawsuit seeking to strike down Maryland law that bars same-sex couples from marriage. The brief notes that while constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion protect religious organizations from having to perform or recognize marriages they oppose, there are many religious leaders and organizations that welcome to opportunity to perform religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
"The issue of marriage for same-sex couples has stirred a healthy debate among religious leaders and scholars," said Rev. Anthony McCarthy of Unity Fellowship Church in Baltimore. "Contrary to some of the rhetoric you hear, marriage has always been an evolving institution. In biblical times, men were free to have as many wives as they could afford to buy. Today, marriage is an institution designed to protect families, and lesbian and gay couples and their children need those protections just like everyone else."
A hearing in the lawsuit will take place before the Baltimore City Circuit Court tomorrow at the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. The court could issue a decision at any time following the hearing. However, it will likely be the state's highest court, The Court of Appeals, which has the final say in the matter.