Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization that put out a statement about Baker’s endorsement. The story has been corrected.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has been under pressure from his own children and many of his county’s younger voters, on Friday endorsed a Maryland ballot measure that would legalize same-sex marriage.
In a brief statement on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi radio program, Baker said he intended to vote for Question 6, the ballot measure.
Baker has long been silent on the issue, despite his long-time support for many other issues embraced by Maryland progressive Democrats.
For months, he has declined to answer questions about same-sex marriage or how he would vote on the issue on Nov. 6.
A spokesman, Barry Hudson, said Baker viewed the matter as a “personal decision,” and that the first-term county executive has no plans to campaign for the ballot measure.
Baker could not be reached immediately after the radio broadcast. Within minutes of the broadcast, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which is spearheading the effort to win support for same-sex marriage in Maryland, put out a press release announcing Baker’s decision.
Baker joins several other Prince George’s Democrats in backing the measure. But many of the county’s pastors in its predominantly African-American churches, also Democrats, are actively opposing it from the pulpit and in meetings with their congregations.
Baker said in an interview after the radio program that he had not planned to make the announcement Friday or on any particular day, but had decided about 10 days ago, after a conversation with his middle daughter Aja, 20, a student at St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland, that it was time to make his views on same-sex marriage known.
He doesn’t plan to campaign for the measure but said his daughter had persuaded him that it was wise to make his own views public.
He said he had avoided making any public pronouncements because he views same-sex marriage as a “personal decision, like the death penalty or abortion.”
“It’s not like Question 7 [on gaming] where the county stands to benefit,” he said. Baker has been a leader in advocating for the expansion of gambling into Prince George’s, where he is hoping to see a full-fledged casino, with table games, at National Harbor, the mini-city on the Potomac.
He said he was comfortable backing same-sex marriage because he believes that the faith community will not be forced to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs, a major concern among many pastors in Prince George’s who are intense opponents of the measure.
“I think the faith community is protected,” he said.