Saying that her deeply held Catholic faith taught her that "we should love each other," Maryland's former lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend threw her support behind the state's same-sex marriage law this morning.
"All people, gay or straight, should have the opportunity to marry the people they love," Townsend said during an event held at the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign headquarters in Baltimore.
Maryland's General Assembly narrowly approved a law legalizing same-sex marriage this year, however opponents have petitioned it to referendum. Voters will have the final say in November.
Maryland's Catholic Conference lobbied hard to defeat the law in the legislature. And after it passed, they helped fund the effort to put it on the ballot. No same-sex marriage law has ever been upheld in a state-wide referendum.
"While it may be attractive and lucrative to follow the path of opinion polls and political interest groups who wish to impose a radical change on society's most fundamental institution, the Catholic Church continues to uphold the truth and timeless value of marriage," said Mary Ellen Russell, the Executive Director of the Maryland Catholic Conference in a statement.
The church has a strong voice in state politics -- it counts 1.2 million Marylanders as members.
But leaders here don't always listen. Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are both Catholic and both supported same-sex marriage. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is also Catholic, and, though he voted against it he also made key changes to his committee structure which allowed it to pass out of his chamber.
Townsend, the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, invoked her famous family's long held views that church and state should be separate. She recalled Tuesday that her uncle, John F. Kennedy, once told Texas ministers that he was "not the Catholic candidate for president" but "the Democratic party's candidate for president who happens to be Catholic."
"He brought with him the understanding that the church can't tell you what to do, but the values of the Catholic church, the values of love and faith, can influence what you do," she said.
Also, she referenced an article about apartheid that her father wrote after returning from a trip to South Africa. Entitled "Suppose god is black," the 1966 piece made a case against that country's segregated political system.
"I could have said this time," Townsend said. "Suppose God is gay?"