Of the four states where the freedom to marry will be on the ballot, Maryland is seen as the most promising. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was passed in March, but it won’t go into effect until January — until the people of the Old Line State have had a chance to weigh in on the law through a referendum. Now that the language of that ballot measure has been released, marriage-equality advocates are very hopeful.
The “Civil Marriage Protection Act” is the rather straightforward title of the referendum. As is its language.
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.
If approved, committed same-sex couples would have the right to marry. Religious institutions and clergy would not have to solemnize unions that they believe violate their religious beliefs. And certain entities would be exempt from having to provide services to same-sex couples related to such marriages if they believe doing so violates their religious beliefs.
“We have the momentum, and clear language like this only makes it easier for voters to make up their mind on Election Day,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, told me in an e-mail. “The more people understand the referendum is about equality and religious liberty, the more support we get.”
Most importantly, if voters endorse the measure, gay and lesbian families in Maryland would have the same rights, responsibilities and protections as their straight married neighbors.
The only thing that would make such a victory complete would be the demise of the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This federal restriction denies married gay and lesbian couples more than 1,100 benefits. Until DOMA dies, same-sex families will never truly be secure.