After a long history of LGBT people largely acquiescing to the "right" of faith-based organizations to discriminate based on their interpretation of religious text, it is stunning to see how non-gay political leaders are stepping up in support of civil marriage equality - and doing it in the context of their own religious beliefs. Perhaps this is a quiet breakthrough that should politely get louder.
Last February, Roman Catholic Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a civil marriage equality bill that is being defended by other ardent Catholics (here and here) while being derided by Seattle's Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who is leading the charge to oppose Referendum 74 on the November ballot that would affirm the state's marriage law.
But one straight ally who seems to have no qualms about making civil marriage a part of the political discussion is Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who signed that state's marriage bill on March 1. The law is also facing a ballot initiative, Question 6.
The Four.com, a new Internet-based campaign in support of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State this November (check social media sites for TheFour2012) released a video interview with O'Malley speaking about faith and equality.
Maryland is a solidly Democratic state, and approximately one-quarter of the voters are African-American. Black voters are expected to turn out in high numbers to vote for President Obama, which makes their support crucial to the success of Question 6. O'Malley, a former mayor of Baltimore, a majority African-American city, said he believed the president's announcement of support for marriage equality in May had been a "very positive development" in sparking conversations among African-American families.
"I think there are very few groups of people in the United States who are as fundamentally fair and understanding as African-American people are given their history, and yet at the same time, they are also a very religious people with a rock solid faith in God, and if they did not have that faith they wouldn't have survived as a people," he said. "And so these conversations are all about reconciling those fundamental beliefs, and I think the same evolution has happened among Catholic people," he said.
While Roman Catholic Church leaders have been among the most outspoken opponents of marriage equality, the governors who have signed legislation in Maryland, New York, Washington, and Maine all identify as Catholic. Asked about that fact, O'Malley paused to reflect, then offered some closing thoughts on theology.
"There is a deep strain in Catholic thought since Thomas Aquinas of Catholic responsibility to contribute to the common good, and the common good is a pluralistic good," he said. "It is a combination of many, many different faiths and many different people coming together, but the bedrock belief, I believe, of all Catholics who are involved in the civic life of their community is a belief in the dignity of every individual, and so it doesn't surprise me that Catholic public servants would discern that."
And here's O'Malley talking to clergy at the Maryland Marriage Equality Prayer Breakfast.