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Same-sex marriage
polarizes black lawmakers

Same-sex marriage
polarizes black lawmakers

In the war over marriage equality in Maryland, black lawmakers are finding themselves caught between many factions.

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.

Earlier this 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 conservative Republicans. 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 in Annapolis. "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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