Maryland Catholics Spread Marriage Equality Message

Maryland Catholic parents and the state’s Catholic governor are spreading their message of support for marriage equality in the state’s upcoming referendum via the traditional press and YouTube.

Erma Durkin

Erma Durkin, who describes herself as an 83-year old “cradle Catholic” penned an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, in which she cites her Catholic faith as the reason she is voting for question #6 in the fall:

“We should be acknowledging in everyone — including my gay son — the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings. As a cradle Catholic, my parents and my church taught me to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated. I have tried to live according to this teaching. . . .

“Both my head and my heart tell me that each child in our family should enjoy the same opportunity to be married. It is only right to treat everyone fairly and equally in the public square. I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Ms. Durkin, who is a regular reader and frequent commenter to the Bondings 2.0 blog, acknowledges that for some, acceptance of marriage equality is a journey, but she is hopeful that others will arrive at the same place that she is:

“I do understand that, for many people, to come to a point where they can say they support marriage for gay couples will be a journey. And there are many lay Catholics on this journey now. In fact, a majority of Catholics in pews across the country support marriage equality. But we all come to this issue at our own pace, and that’s fine. . . .

“I hope Catholics in this great state vote their conscience on election day and support Question 6.”

Pat and Jenny Nugent, of Cambridge, Maryland (who are also frequent readers and contributors to this blog), are featured in a two-and-a-half minute video, explaining how their Catholic faith, plus the experience of having a gay son, have motivated to support this issue of justice and equality.

The Nugents, who have been married 48 years, and have seven children and eleven grandchildren, relate their moving story of how their faith and family experience molded their views.  You can view the entire video here:

In the video, Jenny states:

“I want him to have the same sense of security and fidelity in a relationship, where you know there’s one person you can always rely on.

“I also want for him to be able to say, to the world, this is who I love, this is who I’m committed to, and this is who is committed to me. And that they can do that publicly, like all of our other kids.”

And Pat adds:

“I’m going to vote my conscience and vote for QuestionNo. 6 in November.”

Another Maryland Catholic, Governor Martin O’Malley, was the subject of a ReligionDispatches. org essay this week, and author Peter Montgomery highlighted the governor’s argument about the strong religious protections in the law:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is actively campaigning for voter approval of a marriage equality law he signed earlier this year, said Monday night that his support for equality under the law is “very much informed” by his Catholic faith and his commitment to protecting the human dignity of every person in Maryland. . . .

“O’Malley said that expansive religious freedom language in the law was important to its passage and in keeping with the traditions of the state of Maryland. The referendum language makes clear that the law protects clergy from having to perform any ceremony that violates their beliefs, guarantees each faith control over its marriage doctrine, 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.’ ”

You can watch a video of O’Malley’s other comments here:

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori also spoke out about marriage equality this week,  opposing the referendum question.  His comments are not available, however, since the event at which he spoke was closed to the media.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend–and Other Maryland Catholics–Speak Out for Marriage Equality

At the press conference: Jenny and Pat Nugent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Karin Quimby (of Marylanders for Marriage Equality), Erma Durkin, and William Cole IV (Baltimore City Councilperson).

Catholics took center stage in the debate on marriage equality in Maryland yesterday.   Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the state’s former lieutenant governor and the eldest child of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was the featured speaker at a press conference on Catholic support for marriage equality.  The event was sponsored by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition working to insure that the state’s marriage equality law, passed and signed in the spring, will be approved by voters in a referendum this November.

An Associated Press story in The Washington Post quoted from Townsend’s press conference statement:

“All people, gay or straight, should have the opportunity to marry the person they love and raise the family that they want to raise.”

Also speaking at the press conference was Erma Durkin, a Maryland Catholic mother of a gay son, and Patrick and Jenny Nugent, a set of Maryland Catholic parents who also have a gay son.  The Associated Press quoted Durkin:

“I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person that he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Durkin’s open letter to the Maryland Catholic bishops was featured in a Bondings 2.0 blog post in December 2011.

The Baltimore Sun’s Maryland Politics blog noted Townsend’s references to her uncle, President John Kennedy,  and her father:

“Townsend, the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, invoked her famous family’s long held views that church and state should be separate. She recalled Tuesday that her uncle, John F. Kennedy, once told Texas ministers that he was ‘not the Catholic candidate for president’ but ‘the Democratic party’s candidate for president who happens to be Catholic.’

” ‘He brought with him the understanding that the church can’t tell you what to do, but the values of the Catholic church, the values of love and faith, can influence what you do,’ she said.

“Also, she referenced an article about apartheid that her father wrote after returning from a trip to South Africa. Entitled ‘Suppose god is black,’ the 1966 piece made a case against that country’s segregated political system.

” ‘I could have said this time,’ Townsend said. ‘Suppose God is gay?’ “

Townsend was a featured speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in March of this year, where she first publicly declared her support for marriage equality.  She eventually turned her Symposium talk into an article about   marriage equality as a civil rights issue, which appeared in The Atlantic.

The Owings Mills-Reisterstown Patch carried further elaboration of Durkin’s comments:

“Durkin, 83, a self-described ‘cradle Catholic,’ said she was there to urge her fellow Catholics to vote their conscience and support same-sex marriage.

” ‘To vote to uphold the civil marriage law, for all loving, committed gay and lesbian couples, we should be acknowledging in everyone, including my gay son, the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings,’ Dirkin said.

“She said the church, her long service in ministering to the home-bound and as a scripture study leader taught her the importance of the ‘golden rule,’ which should be applied to same-sex marriage.

” ‘What we’re debating here in Maryland is whether gay couples can go to the court house and get a marriage license. What churches decide to do, which marriages they decide to solemnize or not is up to them, and that’s the way it should be,’ Dirkin said. ‘I can guarantee you my late husband and I would not want anyone telling us we could not marry. It’s the golden rule again coming up, we should treat other people the way we wish to be treated.’ “

At the press conference: Pat and Jenny Nugent
At the press conference: Pat and Jenny Nugent

The Patch  also quoted Jenny Nugent:

“Jenny Nugent said she and her husband had never paid much attention to gay or lesbian people before she started to take care of them as a nurse. She then saw gay people who had no support and had been ostracized by their families. She said seeing that had reinforced something she knew as a mother—that every child is special and deserves to live a full life, including marriage.

” ‘I never want our son or any of our children to be alone in sickness or in health. I want each of them to have the security and joy of a family that they create, and for that family to have the legal protections that come with civil marriage,’ Jenny Nugent said. ‘That’s why, for myself as a Catholic, I’m going to vote my heart and my conscience and support marriage equality.’ “

In June, Bondings 2.0 reported on the efforts of Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland to organize Catholics in the state to support same-gender marriage in the upcoming referendum.  We will continue to bring you news on Catholic programs and projects in Maryland, and in other states (Maine, Minnesota, Washington State) where the issue will be on the November ballot.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maryland Catholics Organize to Support Marriage Equality

Sixty Catholics from the greater Baltimore region gathered for a workshop Saturday, June 9th, to discuss ways to protect Maryland’s newly-minted marriage equality law from a referendum challenge in November.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, was the keynote speaker for the event, which also included a panel of speakers representing a variety of perspectives supporting marriage equality:  Rose Glorioso and Donna Senft, a married lesbian couple; Erma Durkin, the mother of a gay man who is married; Mark Clark, a gay man who had been previously married to a woman; and Karin Quimby, the field director for the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign.

The event, which took place at Goucher College, Towson, Maryland, was sponsored by the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland coalition which is comprised of faithful Catholic individuals and organizations, including: Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, Dignity/Washington, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center/Catholics Speak Out, Thomas More Project, Viva House, Women-Church—Baltimore, and WATER–Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics & Ritual.

Ryan Sattler, a member of Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, who served as spokesperson for the event, described the meeting’s purpose:

“Despite negative messages about marriage equality from our hierarchy, lay Catholics support legal recognition for the committed relationships of lesbian and gay couples. Our Catholic tradition of justice requires that we support lesbian and gay couples not only to protect their families, but to strengthen the common good.”

Participants discuss strategies at Catholics for Marriage Equality–Maryland workshop.

Participants at the workshop discussed a number of strategies to support the marriage equality bill including pledging to go to the polls in November, encouraging other Catholics to do the same, raising funds to support the campaign for marriage equality, talking with their pastors about the referendum, and attending a rally in the fall for Catholics who support marriage equality.

Towson’s interviewed Sister Gramick before the event to get her perspective on marriage equality.  She stated:

“It’s a great shame that the leaders of my church—the bishops—are all out there campaigning against marriage equality. I want to be proud of my church and that makes me very ashamed.” also interviewed Catholic gay couple Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn, for their opinions on the church’s involvement in marriage equality politics:

” ‘I think one thing I discovered growing up Catholic is that the institutional church doesn’t necessarily speak for the parishioners,’ Kolesar said. ‘I think homosexuality and gay marriage is one area where the church leadership and laity diverge.’

Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn

“In fact, a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 52 percent of Catholics believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

“Wojahn, a College Park councilman, said it’s not the church’s place to comment on civil marriages.

” ”m not going to tell the Catholic Church what they should or should not believe,” he said. “But our state shouldn’t discriminate.’

“Gramick said she plans to do her best to avoid just that.

” ‘What I believe the Vatican is trying to do is stamp out questioning, to stamp out dissent; to really destroy any kind of thinking that’s different,’ she said.”

Catholics for Marriage Equality—Maryland also plans two more workshops for Catholics in the state:  on September 29th in Prince George’s County and on October 6th in Montgomery County.

Information about these workshops and the coalition’s other events can be found on their Facebook page.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry