Will Maryland Have a Catholic Lesbian Governor?

Heather Mizeur (right) poses with her wife, Deborah Mizeur (left) in their Maryland home.

Heather Mizeur, Maryland’s only Catholic lesbian Delegate, is considering running for governor of this state which just affirmed the marriage equality law that she worked so hard to pass.

In an exclusive interview with The Washington Blade, a gay publication, Mizeur discussed her thoughts about a 2014 run:

“I’m taking a very serious look at it. I can’t say for sure what 2014 is going to bring but … I know that I would make a good chief executive. I have good ideas for keeping Maryland moving forward.”

The Blade article also commented on the historical significance of such a possibility:

“A run by Mizeur would mark another key milestone in the LGBT rights movement. If successful, she would be the first to win election as an openly gay candidate for governor in the country.”

The recent elections, she stated, are what have moved her to state her hopes publicly:

“ ‘Right now we’re taking stock of what happened in the last election,’ she said. ‘It was incredible to see a big win with Tammy Baldwin being elected the first openly gay senator and Kyrsten Sinema making history in Congress. It really has inspired us to keep pushing forward. So, yes, I’m seriously considering running for governor because we need more diverse voices at that level of government.’ ”

Mizeur was instrumental in helping to get the marriage equality law introduced and passed, as well as affirmed by referendum.  She has been particularly influential with Catholic audiences, having spoken at New Ways Ministry’s marriage equality conference day in 2011, as well as having written a testimonial for the book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach.
Additionally, she engaged in a Catholic vs. Catholic debate on the marriage equality law with another Maryland delegate.  Bondings 2.0 reported on this debate and the post can be viewed here.

She frequently speaks about how her Catholic faith inspires her public service work.  The Blade article noted:

“Mizeur talks openly about her Catholic faith but said she did not encounter any anti-gay sermons over the marriage issue this year because she goes to parishes run by Jesuits who are more progressive. Despite the Catholic Church’s prominent role in funding anti-gay causes around the country, Mizeur contends it’s important not to abandon the church.

“ ‘We have to fight for change from within,’ she said. ‘If all progressive Catholics left, there’d be no reason to live up to the church’s potential.’

“Mizeur was raised in a tiny farming community in rural Illinois called Blue Mound, population 1,100. She’s from a fifth generation farming family, but her father was a factory worker and UAW member his entire career. She spent time with him on picket lines, which helped inspire her pursuit of public service.

“The experience of walking picket lines “taught me the value of sacrifice and hard work and standing up for the courage of your convictions,” she said. “Catholic teachings on social justice also inspired me.”

In July of this year, The National Catholic Reporter identified Mizeur as one of  “12 Catholic Women Under 40 Making a Difference.”

Maryland became one of the first states which voted in marriage equality by a referendum.  Will it also become the first state with not only a lesbian governor, but a Catholic lesbian governor?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Scenes from the Signing of Maryland’s Marriage Equality Law

At the signing ceremony: Governor Martin O'Malley (center) is flanked by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown (left) and House Speaker Michael Busch (right). Catholic lesbian Delegate Heather Mizeur is smiling behind Brown.Both O'Malley and Brown are Catholic, and Busch was raised Catholic, (Photo by Sister Jeannine Gramick)

On March 1st, 2012, Maryland became the eighth state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality legislation for lesbian and gay couples.  Governor Martin O’Malley became the fifth Catholic governor to sign a marriage equality bill, joining Washington State’s Christine Gregoire, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Maine’s John Baldacci, and New Hampshire’s John Lynch.

Among the religious and civic leaders attending the signing ceremony was New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick.  “I was so proud that our Catholic governor relied on our faith’s tradition of equality and justice for all people, including lesbian and gay people,”  Sister Jeannine said. “It was an honor to participate in this moment, and I’m glad I was there to show the strong support that Catholics have for marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.”

At the signing ceremony: Governor O'Malley hands the pen he signed to Delegate Maggie McIntosh, a lesbian. Sister Jeannine can be seen cheering in the white box .

O’Malley prefaced his signing of the bill with a statement which reverberated with Catholic social teaching:

“For a free and diverse people, for a people of many faiths, for a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all, for the human dignity of all.

“Religious freedom was the very reason for our state’s founding, and at the heart of religious freedom is the freedom of individual conscience.

“If there is a thread that unites all of our work here together, it is the thread of human dignity, the dignity of work, the dignity of a job, the dignity of every child’s home, the dignity of every individual.”

On behalf of Catholics, New Ways Ministry thanked Governor O’Malley and the Maryland legislature in ad appearing in today’s print edition of The Baltimore Sun:

Equally Blessed, the coalition of Catholic groups that support equality for LGBT people in the church and wider society, released this statement today on the signing of marriage equality legislation in the state of Maryland:

“We are deeply gratified that Governor Martin O’Malley has joined fellow Catholic governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Christine Gregoire of Washington in signing marriage equality legislation into law.

“These governors represent the sentiments of Catholics in this country far better than the church’s hierarchy, which has spent millions of dollars in an increasingly futile campaign to prolong the era in which secular governments actively discriminate against same-gender couples and their families.

At the signing ceremony: Sister Jeannine Gramick poses with Catholic couple Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn. (Photo by Dan Furmansky)

“We applaud Governor O’Malley and the state legislators who recognized that every human being, regardless of sexual orientation, is created in God’s image, and must be treated with dignity and respect by their neighbors and their government, and we pray that some day such an understanding will take root among the bishops of our church.

“As a coalition we were honored to work of behalf of marriage equality in Maryland by placing an op-ed in The Washington Post making the Catholic case for same-gender marriage. In addition, three coalition members, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, and Allen Rose of DignityUSA testified before the House of Delegates.

“We are particularly thankful to Governor O’Malley, who distributed copies of Mr. DeBernardo’s booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, and who will be attending New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, March 15-17 in Baltimore.

“It is fitting that Sister Jeannine, one of the most effective advocates for LGBT people in the church, will be participating in today’s signing ceremony.”

For more news on the signing ceremony, check out these articles:

The Baltimore Sun: “Governor signs same-sex marriage bill”

The Washington Post: “Md. becomes eighth state to legalize gay marriage”

The Washington Blade: “O’Malley signs marriage bill”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Good News in Maryland, Bad News in New Jersey

Governor Martin O'Malley is congratulated by Maryland Delegates after the historic marriage equality vote. (NY Times photo)

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.


The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign


Governor Chris Christie (NY Times Photo)

In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Times story to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholics Speak Out for Marriage Equality in Maryland

Photo of Sister Jeannine Gramick by Michael Key, The Washington Blade

Spirits were high and the Spirit was moving at January 31st’s Prayer Breakfast and Lobby Day in Annapolis, Maryland, sponsored by Marylanders for Marriage Equality.  Dozens of religious leaders from across the state and across faiths gathered to show their support for the state’s marriage equality bill.

New Ways Ministry Co-Founder Sister Jeannine Gramick spoke at the event’s press conference, explaining why she supports marriage equality from a Catholic perspective:

“This conviction flows from our Church’s social justice teaching. I feel sad that some Church leaders, including my own, claim that marriage must be between one man and one woman, that the definition of marriage has always been the same, and that it cannot change. This is simply not so. . . .

“Some churches have changed their definition of marriage to include lesbian and gay couples. Some have not. We are not here today to ask churches to change their definition of marriage. We are here today to ask the state to change its definition of marriage to reflect the growing social consciousness that marriage is about people who love each other, not about gender or sex. We are here today to ask the state to change its definition of marriage to protect the rights of those churches that recognize same-gender marriage; their heterosexual members can claim the benefits of civil marriage, but their same-gender couples cannot.

” The political definition of marriage needs to be free from discrimination. If heterosexual marriages are recognized by the state, then not recognizing same-gender marriages is discriminatory. Such unfairness is politically and morally wrong. Marriage equality is politically and morally right.”

The Washington Blade report on the press conference following the prayer breakfast event highlights quotes extensively from the racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse group of church and congregation leaders who supported the state’s marriage equality bill, some noting the explicit religious protections that are included in the proposed law.

The Washington Post’s Maryland politics blog focused on the remarks of House Speaker Michael Busch, who was raised Catholic and who taught and coached at his high school alma mater, St. Mary’s in Annapolis.  While upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic through most of his talk, Busch also noted political reality, saying the he expects the vote in the House of Delegates to be “very, very close.”

Photo of Governor Martin O'Malley by Michael Key, The Washington Blade

A highlight of the prayer breakfast, not mentioned in either report, was a surprise appearance by Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, who strongly supports the marriage equality bill.  O’Malley later testified at the state’s Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee hearings on the bill.   The Washington Blade’s  report on the hearings quoted the part of O’Malley’s testimony concerned with religious liberty:

” ‘This bill balances an individual’s civil marriage rights with the important protections of religious freedoms for all,’ O’Malley continued. ‘And because it protects both of these inalienable rights, it is supported by a broad coalition of Marylanders, which includes clergy, community leaders, faith-based organizations, civil rights groups and those who hold the most important title of all in our democracy, and that title is citizen.’ “

The Washington Post carried an Associated Press story on the Senate hearings.

New Ways Ministry was well represented in Annapolis yesterday.  In addition to Sister Jeannine Gramick.  Executive Director Francis DeBernardo, Associate Director Dwayne Fernandes, Board Chair Matthew Myers, and Board Member Ryan Sattler all were there.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.


NEWS NOTES: January 31, 2012

Here are some links to items you might find of interest:

1) The controversy surrounding the naming of anti-homophobia student groups in Ontario’s Catholic schools has added a new wrinkle with a Toronto Star report that the Province’s Education “College [is] asked to investigate principal who banned gay-straight alliance.”   Bondings 2.0’s  latest posting on this controversy can be accessed here.

2) The Washington Blade reports that “religious institutions receiving federal funds for housing programs will have to abide by a new HUD (Housing & Urban Development) rule prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people.”  Details can be found in the article “HUD: Religious groups must abide by LGBT non-bias rule.”
In a letter to President Obama, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the non-discrimination rule. Equally Blessed, a Catholic coalition of LGBT justice and equality, also sent a letter to Obama in support of the rule.

3) The Buffalo News‘ Donn Esmonde writes how a “Priest’s legacy of tolerance is all-embracing.”  It’s an inspiring memoir about the late Msgr. William Schwinger of whom he writes:  “Back when society treated gays as incomplete people, long before anyone envisioned the state sanctioning gay marriage, this priest— despite the Catholic Church’s institutional condemnation of homosexuality— welcomed them into the fold.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: January 25, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) In a Washington Blade article, Maryland’s Catholic Governor Martin “O’Malley says marriage bill brings dignity, religious freedom.”  In attendance at the Governor’s prayer breakfast, and quoted in this article in support of marriage equality, is New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick.

2) Announcing that he will veto New Jersey’s marriage equality bill and prefers a referendum on the issue,  Catholic Governor Chris “Christie Wants Voters to Decide on Gay Marriage” reports the New York Times.

3) Both Pope Benedict XVI and John Boswell, the late Catholic gay historian, are quoted in “The ‘Art’ and Rhetoric of Stereotyping and Scapegoating LGBT People,” published on HuffingtonPost.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 20, 2011

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:


a) We posted earlier this week about Catholic University students protesting   a campus visit by Cardinal George.   MetroWeekly.com, a Washington, DC, gay newspaper, has provided further detail about the action in a story entitled “Protesting Through Prayer:  Catholic University’s LGBT students, allies protest Cardinal George’s comments on homosexuality.”

b) Yesterday we posted about Fr. Mike Tegeder, “A Priest of Integrity,” who is speaking out for marriage equality in Minnesota, despite a gag order on priests from the archbishop.  Tom Roberts, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, supports Fr. Tegeder in his column, “Despite threat, pastor holds his ground over marriage amendment.”

2)  The website OpposingViews.com offers a column: “Most Catholics Support Same-Sex Marriage, While Church Stifles Dissent.”

3) As background for Maryland’s debate about marriage equality, The Washington Blade, D.C.’s gay newspaper,  interviews Delegate Peter Murphy, an openly gay man who identifies as Catholic:  “Md. gay delegate speaks out on marriage, family.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry