Gay marriage on the rocks
This was supposed to be gay marriage's moment in Maryland. All the legislative roadblocks were cleared, and a governor who opposes gay marriage said he'd gladly sign the bill (go figure).
First introduced in 2008, the same-sex marriage bill was bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But in last year's elections, the gay lobby knocked off Sen. Alex Mooney (R-Frederick), a committee "no" vote, and another opponent, Sen. Anthony Muse, minister of a P.G. County mega-church, switched committees. This, and some additional committee reshuffling, freed the same-sex bill by a 7-4 vote.
Meanwhile, the well-organized, deep-pocketed gay lobby was applying a full court press.
They hired a top State House lobbying firm, flooded senators with e-mails, filled the Senate galleries and demonstrated outside the State House. A wildly sympathetic press corps put a human face on the bill with heart-rending stories of upstanding gay couples, while The Post and The Sun endlessly editorialized about the bill's merits and "inevitability."
Academics, clergy, the ACLU and gay couples testified passionately for the bill, while the legislature's eight openly gay members (the most in the nation) worked from within. Every statewide elected official supported the bill, as did every member of the Montgomery delegation backed by the County Council. (If Montgomery's lawmakers fought as hard for state aid as they do for gay marriage, the county wouldn't have a $300 million deficit.)
Meanwhile, the bill's opponents, caught off-guard, mounted a weak, disorganized defense. In fact, so powerful and intimidating is the gay lobby that no State House lobbying firm dared represent the coalition of churches opposing the bill.
On Feb. 24, the same-sex bill passed the Senate, 25-21, and went to the House of Delegates, the more liberal chamber, where the bill already had 59 co-sponsors. Maryland, now ground zero in the culture wars, was about to legalize homosexual marriage, sending a clarion call to the world and claiming its place as the most liberal state in the nation, surpassing even California and Massachusetts.
But, instead, the same-sex bill hit the rocks. When the bill stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, a coalition of churches gained enough time to rally their faithful. And, as opposition e-mails poured into delegates' offices, support melted away, even among co-sponsors.
Then, as the bill faltered, a host of strategic miscalculations added to the problem. The gay lobby assumed that once the Senate logjam broke, the bill would pass the House with ease. But, while last year's elections helped in the Senate, they hurt in the House, where five pro-gay Democrats were replaced by five anti-gay Republicans.
Plus, the gay lobby's strategy of speeding the bill through upset some freshman delegates who'd voiced gay marriage support during the election, figuring the bill would never pass the Senate. Now they needed time to test the political winds back home. Nor did it help that the bill's supporters ordered that no amendments were allowed "take it or leave it" was the dictate.
In the end, it was the churches. The battle over same-sex marriage is, was and always will be a seismic clash between two super-powerful tectonic plates the gay lobby and organized religion.
Most religions believe that homosexual sex is a sin unworthy of rising to the dignity of marriage. This taboo, going back thousands of years, is a basic moral value. The gay lobby, led by Hollywood, academia, the media and the Democratic Party, views homosexual sex as natural and equal in dignity to heterosexual sex.
Six days a week Americans hear the "gay is good" message broadcast from every media outlet. One day a week, in church, they hear the other side.
Yet, despite these odds, organized religion has trumped the gay lobby in every showdown where the people were allowed to decide. In the five gay marriage states it was the courts, not the voters, who ruled, and in the last election all the Iowa judges who legalized gay marriage were turned out by the voters.
Meanwhile, in the 31 states where gay marriage went to public referendum, the gay lobby lost every time even in ultra-liberal California. Last year, the Washington, D.C., City Council legalized same-sex marriage but blocked a public referendum.
Insiders say that P.G. County's black churches turned seven delegates against the same-sex bill, enough to kill it. Many blacks also take offense to the gay lobby's pitch that homosexual marriage and biracial marriage are similar civil rights issues. Biracial marriage is much different from same-sex marriage, say blacks; no religion teaches that biracial marriage is a sin against God.
This clash between the gay lobby and black churches is a white liberal's nightmare. Don't the black churches understand that their job is to endorse Democratic candidates, not religion?
The gay lobby is fond of predicting the "inevitability" of gay marriage whose supporters are "on the right side of history." But so far, most Americans, clutching their Bibles and outdated morality, don't agree.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular
commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.