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Maryland clergy, Del. Burns form ‘progressive’ PAC to fight marriage equality bill

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/08/DollarBillsThumb1.jpgA faction of Baltimore church leaders supportive of the Democratic Party, backed by Maryland House Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr. (D-Baltimore County), have formed a political action committee (PAC) to a fight a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The legislation is expected to be reintroduced during Maryland’s 2012 legislative session.

“We have to fight nuclear war with nuclear weapons,” said the Rev. Errol Gilliard, Sr., during a Friday press conference at his church, the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, in West Baltimore.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/Burns-4001-300x225.jpgMaryland Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr. (D-Baltimore County), the Rev. Errol Gilliard, Sr., discuss their strategy fighting upcoming marriage-equality legislation in Maryland at a press conference Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, at Gilliard's Greater Harvest Baptist Church in Baltimore (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

Gilliard — flanked by Burns and seven other Baltimore black clergy — told about 10 audience members that this new PAC, the Progressive Clergy in Action, would begin targeting senators and delegates who expressed support for the marriage-equality legislation when it was introduced in the 2011 session. Part of the strategy will consist of advertising and distributing materials to church leaders to pass along to their members, Gilliard said.

“We will stand with any elected officials [that oppose same-sex marriage],” Burns said, noting that as a Democrat against the marriage-equality bill, he has been bullied by colleagues and says his District 10 might be redistricted out of retaliation. Though the marriage bill is unlikely to come up in the upcoming special session, when the focus will be on the state’s redistricting maps, Burns said he believed it will come up.

Gilliard said 35 members belong to the PAC, but the group is also trying to recruit mega churches and “our Muslim brothers” as well. He said they are also working with Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Alliance, an affiliate of the Family Research Council (FRC), which Gilliard referred to as the Family Resource Council.

In campaigning against the legislation, the Progressive Clergy in Action plan to stress the arguments that same-sex marriage “is not natural” or a civil right. They will also emphasize that, according to them, if the bill passes next year, children in Maryland public schools will be forced to learn about gay marriage in school and that children’s emotional health would be negatively impacted. Gilliard also said there would be an increase in bullying among children of same-sex couples if they were allowed to marry.

“This is an attempt to literally legalize homosexuality,” Gilliard said of the marriage-equality legislation. “We’re trying to prevent this virus from spreading any further.”

Gilliard noted that the coalition supports gay and lesbian couples being able to form civil unions with legal benefits.

“We do not believe this is about gay-bashing,” he added.

Outside his church, after the press conference, Gilliard told The American Independent he has increasingly been disappointed with the Democratic Party, generally.

“Anything that’s immoral, they support,” he said. “If given an attempt, they would support bestiality. I really believe that.”

Meanwhile, the Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a broad-based coalition supporting same-sex marriage in Maryland, has also acquired supporters, including the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“We believe gay and lesbian couples have the same values as everyone else,” said Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the Baltimore Branch NAACP, in a statement released by Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We look forward to working with the coalition and lawmakers to pass a marriage equality bill that protects religious freedoms.”

The NAACP joins Progressive Maryland, 1199 SEIU, ACLU-MD, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Equality Maryland and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as steering committee members for Marylanders for Marriage Equality*.*

“Having the NAACP on board is a welcome addition to the coalition working to win marriage equality in the Free State,” said Sultan Shakir, Campaign Manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “The NAACP’s long history of working for equality and fairness for all will be instrumental in harnessing the supportive voices in the African-American community and throughout Maryland.”

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