Same-sex marriage referendum

Oak Grove Baptist Church near Bel Air is one of several Harford County churches active in the effort to petition Maryland's same-sex marriage law to referendum. (TED HENDRICKS | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / May 22, 2012)

A number of Harford County churches and religious leaders are leading the local fight to revoke Maryland's new same-sex marriage law before it can go into effect.

Several Harford churches are supporting the Maryland Marriage Alliance coalition in a statewide petition drive challenging the law passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year.

That law does not take effect until January 2013, and its opponents must get at least 56,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.

"That is a slam dunk," Southern Harford Del. Glen Glass predicted, noting the drive already has more than 30,000 signatures statewide. He expects it will ultimately get more than 75,000.

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"The marriage drive is doing really, really well," Glass said Tuesday. "[The Alliance leaders] are spending a lot of money and they are going church to church, and getting tons of signatures."

Oak Grove Baptist Church, on Churchville Road in Bel Air, has been the local distribution point for the petition drive and the church is leading a petition sign-up effort through Saturday at the Motor Vehicle Administration location in Bel Air.

The church's marquee at Churchville and Thomas Run roads has been advertising that drive.

The church has already reached the goal of 6,446 signatures set for Harford County by the Alliance, organizer LaVerne Cash said Monday.

The petitioners must get at least a third of the required signatures by the end of May and the remainder by the end of June, she said.

For Oak Grove Baptist and many other Harford churches, opposing same-sex marriage is a matter of biblical principle.

"As a Christian, you read the Bible and in multiple places in the Bible, it says men should not have relations with a man [like with a woman], and that is in several places," Cash said. "As a Christian, I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, so that was why I felt so strongly against [the bill]."

"If somebody wants to live that kind of lifestyle, that is up to them, and I don't have any kind of animosity to them," Cash continued. "That is an area that we have to agree to disagree with them."

Oak Grove Baptist has not been alone in supporting the referendum.

Grandview Christian Church in Fallston has taken part in the petition drive as well, and Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air got 300 signatures toward the petition during three recent Sunday drives at the church.

The church trained a couple of dozen volunteers to properly fill out the petitions, and some of them joined Oak Grove Baptist at the MVA petition drive.

Calvary associate pastor Michael Nerney said the effort has gone very well.

"We have been very pleased with the participation here," he said. "For us to eclipse the 300 mark tells me that pretty much every registered voter in the congregation was supportive."

Nerney said the battle is an important one for the church.

"It is a very important issue from a biblical standpoint and redefining marriage. Marriage was God's idea, not man's idea," he said. "As a church, we chose to get involved."

He said the church will of course also be encouraging voters to get out in November to actually make their voices heard on the issue.