;An estimated 300 supporters and opponents packed an overflow room on Tuesday as the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard more than six hours of testimony on SB 116, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
The majority of senators on the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee have co-sponsored the bill, and opponents acknowledged that their efforts would probably not change any minds. It's the first year that the measure has received such support on the panel, a development that has sparked momentum for it.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who opposes gay marriage, assessed the legislation's chance of clearing the full Senate as better than 50-50. Advocates are optimistic that it will pass in the House of Delegates; Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign such a bill.
Many of the witnesses testifying against the bill – including ministers, an orthodox rabbi, and two Roman Catholic priests – picked up on [Maggie] Gallagher’s view that procreation is the cornerstone of marriage. They said changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would have a detrimental impact on families and society.
An equal number of witnesses, including a Catholic nun and Catholic lay leaders, two reform rabbis, and at least a half-dozen protestant ministers, both black and white, disputed those assertions, saying they believe same-sex unions strengthen rather than harm the family. Many of the witnesses backing the bill identified themselves as people of faith.
"My God loves everyone," said Elbridge James, a lobbyist for the NAACP and director the Maryland Black Family Alliance. "My God did not make a mistake,” he said. “And so if you were gay, my God did not make a mistake. If you were lesbian my God did not make a mistake. If you were transgender, my God did not make a mistake. And tonight, when I go home to my wife, nothing will deter me from loving my wife—certainly not if there’s a bill that protects gays, protects lesbians or protects the transgender community."
Bishop Harry Jackson and his supporters have argued the tired meme that "same-sex unions endanger black families because they undermine traditional marriage." It's good to see some push-back. Street gangs, HIV/AIDS, unemployment and poorly performing schools are causing much more havoc in the Black community. It'll be helpful when Jackson and his supporters concentrate on those problems.
Also speaking out for the bill was Lea Gillmore from the Maryland Black Family Alliance, seen above with Democratic Maryland Del. Mary Washington, only the second openly lesbian African-American to be elected to a state legislature. Watch the speech and a news report AFTER THE JUMP ...