Maryland Democrat Burns aligning with NOM, FRC to fight marriage-equality bill
Maryland House Del. Emmett C. Burns (D-Baltimore County) is moving forward with a strategy to defeat same-sex-marriage legislation that involves partnering with a conservative policy group and raising money in poor black communities.
Early this month, Burns organized a press conference at the Rev. Errol Gilliard, Sr.’s Greater Harvest Baptist Church in West Baltimore, where he gathered leaders of area black churches who promised to fight next year’s marriage-equality bill by forming a political action committee (PAC). Of the eight clergy who stood beside Burns, Gilliard was the most vocal, telling The American Independent outside his church that the state’s Democratic party had become immoral and “would support bestiality” if given the chance. At the time, Burns said the “Progressive Clergy in Action PAC” had 35 members but was trying to recruit more.
Burns could not be reached for comment, but this week, he told Capital News Service he hopes to file the PAC with the Maryland State Board of Elections in October.
At the heart of Burns’ initial strategy is partnering with the state’s social conservative Family Research Council (FRC) affiliate Maryland Family Alliance (MFA), which is connected to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in its efforts to thwart marriage-equality legislation. MFA President Derek McCoy was the outreach director in California’s Proposition 8 initiative, which banned same-sex-marriage in 2008.
The Family Research Council is labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Last time we had a loose confederation of opponents,” Burns told Capital News. ”Now we have a tightly-knit organization with strategies, with plans, and with money to fight same sex marriage.”
McCoy recently spoke at an event in Easton, Md., where according to local newspaper The Star Democrat, he pushed NOM’s common argument that having legislatures vote on marriage rights marks an injustice.
As TAI previously reported, Burns has already started discussing campaigning for a voter referendum to quash the legislation were it to pass next year. However, to begin such a campaign now, before the bill has even gone to vote, would be a violation of state law. The Star Democrat reported that at the Easton event, McCoy similarly discussed the necessity of repealing the gay-marriage legislation via referendum if the law passes.
NOM has been raising money to try to oust Republican state and federal representatives who have broken party ranks to support marriage equality, but on Thursday, NOM President Brian Brown said in a newsletter that same-sex marriage is not a partisan issue, using Burns and New York Sen. Rev. Rubén Díaz as examples.
The Rev. Meredith Moise, a Baltimore activist and executive director of Christian Youth Centers of America, told TAI she thinks Burns and the self-identified Democratic pastors supporting Burns’ anti-marriage-quality efforts have lost sight of the issues that Marylanders — particularly the black community — care about most, such as unemployment, keeping their children safe, reducing citywide gun and drug violence and, most recently, the controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.
“It behooves us as a community to focus on those issues,” Moise said. “How will [fighting marriage for] same-gender-loving people put food on my table? Is [Burns'] PAC about reducing the number of abandoned homes in Baltimore City?” She noted that the Greater Harvest Baptist Church is surround by at least 10 abandoned buildings.
While pastors such as Burns and Gilliard have plans to discuss their views against same-sex-marriage at the pulpit, Moise said she will be talking to African-Americans in areas where political conversation abound, such as barbershops.
“I respect the pastors’ belief and freedom of religion, but as a minister, I believe that God is love and love is for everybody,” she said.