By Maria Wiering
The Maryland Catholic Conference says the wording of a controversial ballot question should not sway support for traditional marriage.
The question, a referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law passed earlier this year, states that the law includes some protections for “religious organizations” whose doctrines conflict with same-sex marriage.
John McDonough, Maryland Secretary of State, released the wording of November’s ballot questions Aug. 20.
“Proponents of the law claim the ballot language reflects the measure’s supposed religious freedom protections for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” the MCC said in an Aug. 20 statement. “This claim is misguided and ignores the fundamental reason to reject this measure.”
The MCC advocates for public policy on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops.
The questions include seven statewide questions and 10 local ballot questions.
MCC worked with the Maryland Marriage Alliance to secure enough voter signatures to bring the same-sex marriage law to statewide referendum.
A “yes” vote for the ballot item – Question 6, labeled on the ballot as “Civil Marriage Protection Act” – supports legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland. The measure will take effect in 2013 if not defeated.
The MCC emphasized that the reason it hopes voters oppose the law is because “the definition of marriage is given to us by our nature as human beings, and supersedes government and religious institutions.”
“Government and religion together recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman because that relationship is the only source of new life and our future generations,” it continued. “Redefining marriage will undermine the family structure for all of society, and strip from law a basic recognition of the vital role that mothers and fathers together play in the lives of children.”
Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which supports the law, described the language as “accurate,” “straightforward,” and “another way to educate voters.”
“This referendum is about equality under the law and protecting religious freedom,” he said in an Aug. 20 statement.
However, the MCC says the law only purports to protect religious freedoms.
“According to the actual legislation, religious organizations that accept any sort of state or federal funds are excluded from religious liberty protections. They are not exempt, and there are no protections for individuals,” the MCC said.
“Marylanders should not be fooled into thinking we can redefine marriage and still protect religious liberty,” it added.
Derek McCoy, the Maryland Marriage Alliance’s executive director, said any attempt on behalf of the state to favor same-sex marriage with its ballot language will “backfire.”
“Voters will be inherently suspicious of any description that goes to such lengths to say what supposedly isn’t impacted, rather than deal forthrightly with what obviously is impacted,” he said in a statement.
“Maryland parents who send their children to public schools are immediately asking how does this affect what is taught in schools. Business owners have a right to know if their personal opinions about same-sex marriage will find them in violation of the law,” he said.
“It’s a classic ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ moment that will make it easier for us to bring attention to the profound consequences of redefining marriage,” he added.
Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a Catholic, has been an outspoken proponent of same-sex marriage, calling the issue a matter of dignity and equality.
Also on the ballot is a referendum on the state’s DREAM Act. Labeled as Question 4, “Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates,” the measure would allow all individuals, including undocumented immigrants who meet specific criteria, to pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland public colleges and universities.
The state’s bishops support the measure, which the legislature passed in 2011. The MCC is a partner of Educating Maryland Kids, a coalition of organizations defending the measure. Neither the MCC nor Educating Maryland Kids made a public statement about the wording of Question 4.
Copyright (c) Aug. 21, 2012 CatholicReview.org