I am writing to ask my fellow citizens of Carroll County to vote against Question 6.

As a pastor, I am well aware that the Bible teaches against practicing homosexual acts and defines marriage as between a man and a woman. For many, that is sufficient reason to vote against Question 6.

My main reason, however, in opposing Question 6 and in writing this letter now is that I believe there are not sufficient protections for those who oppose legalization and would happen to express the reasons for this opposition to other people.

While there appears to be protection in the proposed law to not require people like me to officiate at a gay marriage service, and while the Bill of Rights is supposed to protect free speech and freedom to practice religion, in practice these protections have not sufficiently served to protect.

Judging by things that have already happened, people can be fired from their jobs; students can be suspended from their schools; businesses can be banned from communities; and people can be arrested (though none convicted so far) for opposing gay marriage or expressing to others that the Bible says that practicing homosexuality is a sin.

The most recent case in point was the Gallaudet University official who was suspended for signing the petition to have this measure put on the ballot in Maryland. Her picture was inadvertently displayed on a newscast, and others saw her and demanded she be punished.

But preceding that was the threat by ranking politicians in Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere that Chick-Fil-A would be banned from their cities, simply because their CEO stated that he did not believe the Bible supported gay marriage.

A well-known case of people getting arrested for expressing the Bible's position occurred in Philadelphia in 2004. And there have been numerous cases of students in public schools being suspended or reprimanded in other ways for respectfully sharing with others what the Bible says about practicing homosexuality.

If this law passes, school officials, employers, police officers and politicians would feel empowered to use their offices to harass those who want to speak out about what the Bible says about homosexual practices. I think that for the sake of our Bible-supporting friends and family -- including our kids -- we need to defeat this amendment.

The Rev. Timothy Thomas