BALTIMORE (AP) - Maryland's same-sex marriage debate may end up being decided in the voting booth, but Gov. Martin O'Malley told a conference on Catholicism and homosexuality Friday that he believes voters will come down on the side of human dignity.
Weeks after signing same-sex marriage into law, O'Malley spoke briefly at a conference sponsored by Mount Rainier-based New Ways Ministry, which advocates full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the church and society. The group supported the same-sex marriage legislation, which now faces a referendum drive challenge. Baltimore's Catholic archdiocese issued a statement this week noting that the group does not speak for the church.
"I'm not here as a Catholic, I'm here as the governor for all of Maryland," O'Malley said. "Each one of us in the public arena brings with us our own perspectives, our own traditions, our own faith traditions, our own ethnic backgrounds. What we hope and what we should expect of all our leaders is when they look at the Constitution is to protect rights equally among all people."
Other speakers at the three-day conference include former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who wrote "Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way;" Barbara Johnson, a lesbian recently denied Communion at her mother's funeral in Gaithersburg; and retired Australian Bishop Geoffery Robinson, who was expected to call on the church to rethink its view on sexuality and equality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
O'Malley said after his address to the group that it was important for him to articulate what was accomplished with the same-sex marriage legislation, which he framed as a debate on how to protect religious freedoms and equal rights, and said he'll be taking that message to people of many different faiths.
"The conversation in the General Assembly is concluded, but the conversations at workplaces and dinner tables and kitchen tables will just be starting. I have a lot of faith in people in our state. I do believe with full consideration people will come to the conclusion that as we have in the past we can protect rights more fully and equally while also protecting religious liberty," he said.
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