ANNAPOLIS, Md. (BP) -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Thursday that would legalize gay "marriage" in the state beginning in January 2013, but churches already are mobilizing to reverse it at the ballot.
Technically, the Democratic governor's signature made Maryland the eighth state either with a gay "marriage" law or a law set to go into effect. Maryland, though, is one of two states almost certain to see such a law challenged at the November ballot. Washington state is the other.
Under the umbrella name Maryland Marriage Alliance (www.MarylandMarriageAlliance.com), multiple groups -- Baptist congregations, Catholic churches and conservative organizations -- will gather signatures with the goal of giving voters a chance to reverse the law though a referendum. About 56,000 valid signatures are required, although churches will need to collect far more than that to make up for the ones tossed out as invalid.
"We are trying to defend an institution that has stood the test of time all the way back to the book of Genesis," Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., told Baptist Press. He said his congregation will be involved in the signature drive. About 500 church members previously signed cards opposing the bill. The cards were given to legislators.
The Maryland Board of Elections approved the language of the referendum Wednesday (Feb. 29).
"The overwhelming response we heard from the people of Maryland during the debate in the General Assembly made it clear that the people of this state do not support same sex marriage," said Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. "We know that thousands upon thousands of Marylanders contacted their legislators, attended our rallies and stood up for marriage. This energy will now be focused on a referendum to give the people the right to vote on marriage, and ultimately, to overturn this act of the General Assembly."
Catholic churches figure to be involved heavily. After the bill passed the legislature, Baltimore Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien released a statement saying the archdiocese will "eagerly and zealously engage its 500,000 members in overturning this radical legislation" and will join with others "throughout Maryland in aggressively protecting the God-given institution of marriage."
Anderson said Marylanders have good reason to overturn the law. The state, he said, should promote the ideal for children: marriage as between one man and one woman.
"From a sociological level, it's best for the children," Anderson said. "Every child has a right to have a mom and a dad -- to say at the end of the day, 'Good night Mommy' or 'Good night Daddy.' Every study tells you that it's better for a child, overall in the long run, to have both a mother and a father."
Six states currently recognize gay "marriage": Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and New York. Thirty-one states have voted on gay "marriage" at the ballot, and it has lost in every state.
Anderson said the issue is one that goes beyond "political lines." African American churches, he said, have been united against the bill.
"We're talking about something more basic to society and civilization," Anderson said. "Black churches and black clergy got involved when the homosexual community started to make it an issue of civil rights. That's a sacred cow among African Americans. We know what civil rights are. Our skin color -- we didn't have a choice. The color of your skin has nothing to do with sin.
"Homosexuality is sin," he added. "To be black, to be Asian, to be Native American, that is not sin."
Traditionalists also warn that the legalization of gay "marriage" would impact the religious liberty of private businesses and curriculum in elementary schools.
In Massachusetts -- where marriage has been redefined -- a second-grade class read a book, "King & King," about a prince who "marries" another prince.
In Vermont, where gay "marriage" is legal, the ACLU sued a bed and breakfast after it declined to host a same-sex "wedding" reception. Illinois saw a similar lawsuit, when a male couple filed a discrimination suit against two bed and breakfasts that refused to host their civil union ceremony.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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