"Oh, help me, Holy Ghost," he said, speaking to a congregation of about 250. He said he'd struggled with his own marriage. He said he was struggling with the sermon. But, he said, he knows that God wanted marriage to be between a man and a woman.

"I don't believe it is a political question," he roared. "The question should not even be on the ballot. God's will is not up for a vote."

The faithful clapped. Some women held their right hands above their heads, with their palms faced upward.

"Go vote," Saunders said. "Vote for whoever you want to for president. When it comes down to Question 6, I believe I'm in the right. … It is a question that goes against God's will."

On the other side of the issue, the faithful are working outside the church walls. Sometimes that is by choice — a group of African-American pastors gathered for a news conference last month in Washington to express their hope that the law is upheld.

Other times it is not. The Catholic Church has barred supportive same-sex marriage literature or discussion in the parishes, so Catholics who want Question 6 find other venues to express their views.

"We have to be strategic about how we get our message out," said Ryan Sattler, head of a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality. "We know that the Catholic vote is very important in Maryland. We are doing our best to get our voice of fairness."

Last week, nearly a dozen Catholics gathered at the Marylanders for Marriage Equality headquarters in Canton to staff a phone bank — from the same office space Gov. Martin O'Malley used for his two gubernatorial campaigns.

Sitting at a wooden table with a call sheet, a cellphone and a printout titled "What the Bible says — and doesn't say — about homosexuality" was Sue Hillis, a 62-year-old mother of two from Baltimore County.

"Hello. My name is Sue. I have a gay son," she said, speaking on the cellphone, which was provided by the marriage equality campaign.

"That is wonderful," she said to the caller. "You understand? Oh, really? As a Catholic, that has to be difficult."

She paused.

"To be a Catholic and have a gay son," she said. "This is not his decision. This is the way God made him."

Sue hung up with a triumphant smile: "Her boss is gay!"

She dialed another number.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

twitter.com/annielinskey

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts