Zachariah Long, left, and Edward Ritchie protest against the Civil Marriage Protection Act in Annapolis Feb. 17.
Zachariah Long, left, and Edward Ritchie protest against the Civil Marriage Protection Act in Annapolis Feb. 17. (AP FILE PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Opponents of the Civil Marriage Protection Act say the issue is less about the rights of individuals and more about what they believe is fundamentally right when it comes to the definition of marriage.

Bishop Ross Jackson Sr., leader of West Falls Christian Community Church in Mount Airy, said he hasn't been politically involved in the issue, but he still has a firm opinion about whether Maryland should allow same-sex marriage.

"I have God's opinion, I don't have my own," Ross said. "I'm an avid believer in traditional marriage, as established by the Bible."

Ross said the church's beliefs on marriage date back to the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, where marriage was defined as the union between one man and one woman, and sanctioned by God.

"We believe marriage is the backbone of our society, and really what makes this country very strong," he said. "Strong families make for a strong society and a strong country, so we believe in marriage whole-heartedly."

But that doesn't mean he believes the definition of marriage should be changed in order to include same-sex couples.

"They have the right to do what they desire to do, within the confines of their own houses or whatever, but to call it marriage, I believe is incorrect," Ross said. "I'm not going to try and superimpose my views or God's views on them, and I don't think they should try to do that on society either. Marriage is what it is, and I don't think we need to change it."

Karen Wingard, of Timonium, testified this year in Annapolis on the Civil Marriage Protection Act, hoping to prevent the bill from being passed.

"It's not that we're against people that are same-sex attracted, but you cannot equate two people of the same gender to two people of different gender when the whole purpose of gender difference is procreation," she said.

The union between a man and a woman is what creates the next generation, Wingard said, and studies have shown that the intact biological family is the best way of raising children.

"They do better in school, they're less likely to get in trouble with the law - all kinds of gold standards," she said. "That's the best environment for raising children."

Changing the definition of marriage to recognize same-sex couples automatically changes the whole understanding of parenting, Wingard said. While not every marriage produces children, every child has a mother and a father. Redefining marriage automatically excludes at least one of the biological parents from that union.

Redefining marriage means the government now endorses a living environment for children that is not the best for the child, she said.

"It not only endorses, but puts on a parity, both types of families," she said. "Therefore, the assertion that children need a mother and a father becomes a discriminatory statement, and the law will punish those who speak the truth. The law will enforce as good something that is not."

With growing divorce rates and rising numbers of single parents, American society has already seen a breakdown in the family and more social problems stemming from this, Wingard said.

"We're not saying because someone has same-sex attraction that they are less of a person, but the relationship is in no way the same as the purpose of marriage," she said. "Because marriage has been so denigrated over the years, and the sexual revolution has changed things ... people cannot see the difference."

Wingard said she knows the bill has supposed protections for religious institutions, allowing them to not perform same-sex marriages if they feel it is against their beliefs, but she worries about others in the wedding-related businesses, such as photographers and other business owners, who may not want to be a part of a same-sex wedding because of their own religious beliefs. She can see a business owner who declines accepting their business being sued for a hate crime.

"It will impact religious liberties and civil liberties, despite of what the bill says," she said. "Those are hollow promises."

Del. Justin Ready, R-District 5A, said proponents of the Civil Marriage Protection Act always tout the fact that there are religious protections in it, but he's not convinced that it is tight enough to prevent future lawsuits.

Ready said he voted against the bill, and plans to vote against it again in the referendum. He knows that this is a tough issue, and said he got a lot of contact from his constituents during the legislative session, who seemed to be against the bill 2-1.

"It's not an easy issue - there are a lot of people who feel very strongly the other way," Ready said. "But in my view, I have to come down on what I feel is the right move long-term for our society and for our state, and I believe that the institution of marriage itself is between a man and a woman. There may be some other things that can be done to be sure that people can do what they like to do with their chosen partner, but marriage is not the same thing, in my opinion."

For many years, the folks who pushed for same-sex marriages in Maryland and visited Annapolis to rally and testify said it was a rights issue, he said.

"I understand why they feel the way they do, but the issue is marriage actually isn't a right," Ready said. "You have a right to live with whoever you want to in my view and do whatever you want to. I believe in freedom of choice to do whatever you want to do. But when we talk about fundamentally altering the institution of marriage, I think that affects a lot more than we even realize."

Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said he does not see same-sex marriage as a rights issue either and doesn't like to see it compared with the civil rights struggle blacks went through in the 1960s.

"It was really to try to get [blacks] to full citizenship status; to move about your own town and city without harm, danger and fear, without the harm of driving at night or even walking at night where they had an unprecedented amount of lynchings and beatings that were going out of the south," he said.

Homosexuals aren't getting lynched for being gay or being segregated from the rest of society, McCoy said.

"You're looking at a group of people that says 'I want my bedroom stuff to be elevated to someone who [has dealt with racism],'" he said. "I don't know too many people that buy that at all, that we would be in the same bucket. A lot of people feel like that's insulting."

While the rights issue used to be the focus of the proponents of same-sex marriage, Ready said he's detected a shift.

"Now the lobby that pushes for gay marriage wants marriage because they believe it will validate their relationships," he said. "And it's my view that it's not the role of the state to really validate anybody's relationship."

Ready said he believes the wording on the referendum could be confusing to voters in November, and he hopes that researching the question and issue beforehand will help prevent any voting mishaps.

The bill was called the Civil Marriage Protection Act, and it was passed to allow same-sex marriages, Ready said. The referendum question will ask voters whether they are "for" or "against" the law that was passed, he said, rather asking whether a "yes" or "no" as to whether they would support same-sex marriage. Therefore a vote "for" the law is saying you want same-sex marriage, he said, and a vote "against" is a vote to repeal the law.

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