By Maria Wiering
Maryland and Maine were the first two U.S. states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote Nov. 6, breaking a 32-state streak of the public voting in favor of marriage remaining a union of one man and one woman.
Maryland Catholic leaders hoped the trend would continue in Maryland, whose legislature narrowly passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in February 2012. Traditional marriage supporters succeeded in bringing the law to public referendum with hopes of overturning it by popular vote.
The law was upheld with 51.9 percent voting in favor and 48.1 percent opposed.
A strong advocate of traditional marriage, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori was among the campaign’s most vocal leaders. He was disappointed to see voters approve same-sex marriage, he said.
“I think that vote will prove not to have been for the common good of our state,” Archbishop Lori said.
The Maryland Catholic Conference, which advocates for public policy on behalf of the state’s bishops, joined the Maryland Marriage Alliance in efforts to overturn the law. Archbishop Lori praised the advocates’ work over the past year.
“So much hard work went into this, and I’m very, very grateful to everyone who worked so hard,” he said. “We will continue to witness to the values of marriage as understood as the union of one man and one woman, as the most sound, secure and loving way to bring children into the world.”
Mary Ellen Russell, MCC executive director, said she is concerned that voters do not understand the same-sex marriage law’s ramifications, and she hopes religious freedom is protected as the ballot language suggested.
Maryland will begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples Jan. 1.
Voters in Washington State also narrowly approved same-sex marriage. Minnesotans opposed an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The election results on same-sex marriage should serve as a “wake up call” for Catholics, Archbishop Lori said, demonstrating “our need to redouble our efforts to defend marriage, to preach about what marriage is, and to help people understand it as a unique relationship that does not discriminate against anyone, but is for the good of children and for the good of our society.”
Catholics can continue to work to uphold traditional marriage by strengthening their own marriages and family life, he added.
“When husbands and wives exemplify the love of God in their own marriages, that is as powerful as anything,” Archbishop Lori said.
When the laws take effect, Maryland, Maine and Washington State will join six other states licensing same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Same-sex marriage is also legal in the District of Columbia.
Prior to the 2012 election, same-sex marriage had been put to popular vote 33 times in 32 states, failing each time. Earlier this year, North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Maryland Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a Catholic, campaigned for the same-sex marriage law. In a Nov. 7 statement, he called it a way of providing the state’s families “equal protection under the law” and “greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all.”
DREAM ACT UPHELD
Same-sex marriage was not the only contentious ballot measure Marylanders faced. Voters also affirmed the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who meet certain criteria to attend Maryland’s public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates.
The Maryland General Assembly passed the law in 2011, but it was brought to public referendum. The MCC supported the measure, calling it a matter of fairness.
Maryland voters supported the DREAM Act more widely than same-sex marriage, with 58.3 percent voting in favor and 41.7 percent opposed. The measure’s passage pleased Archbishop Lori, he said.
“It certainly opens doors for deserving young people in a very appropriate way,” he said.
Jesus Perez, 20, a “DREAMer” who campaigned for the law, was ecstatic about the DREAM Act passing referendum.
He now plans to enroll in a community college. The law requires DREAM Act-eligible students to complete two years of education at a community college before enrolling in a state college or university.
Paying for college will still be difficult, he said, but the law makes it possible. In-state tuition rates at the University of Maryland, College Park, for example, are about $8,000, and out-of-state $24,000.
A Catholic, Perez said “it felt good” to know the Catholic Church supported the law.
“It’s a joy to know that they have our backs, and they know what’s right,” he said.
Gov. O’Malley also supported the DREAM Act. In a statement, he said that by passing the measure, Marylanders “have chosen to make the dream of a college education a reality for every child.”
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CONCERNS
President Barack Obama’s re-election also ensures efforts will continue to overturn the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring most employers to provide insurance, without co-pay, for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, which violate Catholic teaching.
Catholic hospitals, universities or charitable organizations are subjected to the mandate because they do not meet its narrow definition for being a “religious employer.” Most employers who have moral objections to providing the drugs and procedures are also not exempt.
More than 40 lawsuits representing 110 plaintiffs have been filed against the federal government over the mandate by Christian organizations and employers seeking exemption from the mandate.
About 60 percent of Marylanders voted for Obama, a Democrat. Nearly 38 percent voted for his Republican challenger former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Lori expressed hope that the president will take First Amendment concerns seriously.
“The president promised to reach across the aisle, and we hope that reach will also extend to religious communities that have sincere objections to having their religious liberty violated, and we hope that extends to conscientious individuals as well,” he said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, USCCB president, congratulated Obama Nov. 7, assuring him of the bishops’ prayers.
“In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom. We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.”
Archbishop Lori said he hoped the election helps Catholics recognize that link between protecting all human life, protecting marriage and protecting religious freedom.
“They’re all of a piece, and it’s going to require a lot of work, dialogue, prayer and witness on our part as we go down the road,” he said.
Copyright (c) Nov. 7, 2012 CatholicReview.org