LGBT NEWS: Maryland Gays Enlist Church Support In Marriage Suit

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    Maryland Gays Enlist Church Support In Marriage Suit
    by Paul Johnson Washington Bureau Chief

    Posted: August 12, 2005 12:01 am ET

    (Baltimore, Maryland) With slightly more than two weeks before a Baltimore court hears a case seeking to open the state to same-sex marriage LGBT groups are seeking the support of moderate church groups.

    Equality Maryland and the ACLU have been crisscrossing the state holding meetings with clergy. It is a novel approach - and seems to be working.

    This week the groups, and two of the 19 plaintiffs in the case, spoke to about 50 clergy and laypersons in Frederick.

    "The religious community does not speak with one voice on this issue, much to contrary belief," said Meredith Curtis, public education director for the Maryland ACLU.

    Many of those who attended the meeting already were supporters of same-sex marriage. Others, like pastor Guy Wenck, of the Jefferson United Church of Christ, came to the meeting to learn more about the issue.

    "I haven't made a decision in my mind at this point, but we welcome anyone into our congregation," Wenck said.

    Interim Pastor Scott Comrie of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ said the the meeting offered an opportunity to bring religious leaders together to debate the issue. The UCC, a gay welcoming denomination, recently voted at its general synod to support same-sex marriage.

    Equality Maryland has been involved in educating church leaders since the beginning of the year. In February more more than 70 clergy members signed a document supporting same-sex civil marriages. (story) The Baltimore City Circuit Court will hear arguments on the case Aug. 30. The suit was first filed two years ago. (story) It alleges that county clerks are violating the state constitution's guarantees of equality by not granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

    Earlier this year Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich vetoed two gay rights bills. The Republican governor nixed the Medical Decision Making Act and a bill that would have eliminated an unfair property tax levied only on unmarried couples. (story)

    Ehrlich later said he would be prepared to support a version of Medical Decision Making Act in the future as long as it did not include a partner registry. (story)

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