The same-sex marriage wars have flared up once again in Maryland, which should not come as a surprise. It also seems that religion will play a major role in the discussions of whether the state legislature should back a legal redefinition of marriage or pass some other measure addressing the issue. Duh. The big news is that Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has endorsed same-sex marriage. Thus, Baltimore Sun reporter Laura Smitherman writes about a day of public hearings:
Gansler joined a steady march of lawmakers, clergy, concerned citizens, activists, children of gay parents and others who testified on both sides of the issue over several hours before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The panel is also considering a bill to put a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage on the November ballot, and a bill that would create domestic partnerships in place of civil marriage, a possible vehicle for civil unions. ...
Opponents argued that gay marriage would tear at the fabric of society and force public schools to teach approval for same-sex unions. They suggested that voters should decide the issue through a constitutional amendment. Twenty-seven states have constitutional provisions that prevent same-sex marriages, though Maryland does not.
Now, a "steady march" of people testifying means that there were quite a few names and titles used in that meeting. One would assume that there were a wide variety of marchers, from both sides of the religious and political spectrum. That's a hard thing for a reporter to know how to handle. Who do you quote? Who do you leave out? What kinds of voices to you use to symbolize the clashing sides on this hot, hot political issue?
Note, also, that the legislature is trying to test a compromise approach -- with civil unions. The Washington Post story on the same hearings also stressed the religion angle, of course, and offered this language on the potential for a centrist compromise:
Yesterday, the committee considered several measures. One would allow same-sex marriages, and another would abolish civil marriage ceremonies confined to heterosexual unions and replace them with domestic partnerships for all couples. ...
Advocates and lawmakers acknowledge that the legislature is unlikely this year to approve either same-sex marriage or a change to the constitution to ban it. But a compromise on civil unions for gay couples, giving them a broad range of legal rights, has a shot at passage. The Senate committee, which has several members who are social conservatives, could be more receptive to civil unions.
In other words, what happens if the state leaves "marriage" alone and creates a "secular" state that applies to secular unions, same-sex or otherwise? The crucial political question -- I imagine that people such as Barack Obama and John McCain are paying attention -- is whether leaders on either side of the debate will accept a compromise, period.
That's the politics. My questions are, of course, about religion. So let's go back to that "march" of people arriving to testify at the hearings.
Question No. 1: Did anyone speak for the Catholic archdiocese? Did anyone speak for the Catholic left?
Question No. 2: Did anyone speak from the Orthodox Jewish community, which is very vocal in Baltimore? Did anyone speak from the Jewish left?
Question No. 3: If evangelicals spoke on the right, did anyone from the "emerging church" world speak on the evangelical left? Take that Brian McLaren guy. Was there anyone there from his Maryland flock?
In other words, if religion is a huge part of this story, I would like to know a few details a few symbolic facts.
You can't tell the players without a program. I realize that reporters cannot list all of the names of the people marching to the podium in this kind of hearing. But there are symbolic groups in Maryland religion. Were they represented? Do their voices matter?
If Catholic leaders were not there, at all, that is a story in and of itself.