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Md.'s top leaders cross Catholic hierarchy on gay marriage

Miller said his mother told him that "it was a women's issue and that I needed to support the women."

Miller has since been a strong advocate on some issues affecting the Catholic Church, including a proposed tax credit to help bolster its schools. But he said he's "not a very good Catholic" despite regular attendance at churches in his district.

"I think we should have women for priests," he said. "I think there should be contraception to stop the spread of AIDs in Africa. I support capital punishment, and I'm pro-choice in the early stages of pregnancy."

In discussing his opposition to same-sex marriage, Miller, 68, pointed to the strong values of his family, which hadn't had a single divorce until his generation.

"It's not really a Catholic thing," he said. "I have a hard time associating family values with people of the same sex being married. What is the next definition of marriage going to be? At some point, you have to draw the line."

Miller said he thinks same-sex marriage could be rejected by Maryland voters.

The state allows residents to petition that just-passed laws be placed on the ballot if they collect enough signatures. If this happened, the marriage law would appear on the November 2012 ballot.

O'Malley grew up in a Catholic family in Montgomery County, attending Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda and Gonzaga College High School in the District, a Jesuit school. He later went to Catholic University in the District.

The governor listed a variety of issues for which his Catholic faith provides an underpinning. Among them: opposition to the death penalty, raising the minimum wage, holding down the cost of college tuition, supporting the right of workers to organize and cleaning up the environment.

O'Malley, 48, said he has come to view gay nuptials as a matter of "equal protection under the law." It is one of several issues in which he is not "in sync" with the Catholic hierarchy.

"Their job is to guard the tenets of the faith, and, you know, it's understandable that the church, for that reason, that they're slow to change," he said.

O'Malley said he settled on civil unions several years ago, when he was mayor of Baltimore, as a reasonable compromise between freedom of religion and equal rights sought by gay couples. It is a compromise that has since been rejected by leading gay-rights advocates in Maryland, who see civil unions as second-class treatment.

"The debate seems to have evolved more quickly than many might have foreseen," the governor said. "I'd be willing to sign any law that reaches me as long as it protects rights equally. I'm not going to get hung up on the words used to describe equal protection under the law."

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