In the war over
marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples in
Maryland, African-American lawmakers are finding themselves
caught between religious convictions, party rancor,
pressure from lobbying groups, and conflicted feelings
about the definition of civil rights, TheWashington Post reports.
month, a Maryland circuit court judge ruled that denying
same-sex couples marriage rights was unconstitutional. If
the appeals court upholds the judge's decision,
same-sex marriage could be legalized in the state. At
the same time, conservative groups are lobbying
lawmakers to vote for a constitutional amendment banning
same-sex marriage, which, if passed, would put the
measure before voters in November. The Legislative
Black Caucus, a reliable group of progressive voters,
is being pursued by Republicans gunning for the amendment,
as well as Democrats, who believe the amendment would
hurt their chances at the polls this year by rallying
Many also believe Maryland's
Republican lieutenant governor, Michael
Steele, currently courting church-going black
Democrats in his 2006 run for the U.S. Senate, would get a
lift from the ballot initiative. "Obviously,
having [same-sex marriage] surface is a tremendous
help to us," Leonardo Alcivar, Steele's
campaign spokesman, told the Post.
Two African-American state senators--both
Democrats--highlight the chasm now separating
black legislators over the issue.
Ulysses Currie told the newspaper that his
decision to push for the constitutional amendment will
be guided from the pulpit and by his Christian
constituents in Prince George's County who
"are as conservative as the
conservatives." On the other side of the spectrum,
Gwendolyn T. Britt, whose jurisdiction is also Prince
George's County, told the Post she supports the
rights of gays and lesbians because she knows
"how to walk a mile in someone else's shoes."
Lawmakers of both parties are feeling the heat
of state religious leaders who are adamantly against
same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, bishops, reverends, and
other church directors will urge African-American
lawmakers to support the constitutional amendment at a rally
"We have to stand up as a voice and
defend what we believe is a sacred rite between a man
and a woman," the Reverend Derek McCoy, associate
pastor at Hope Christian Church, told the newspaper.
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