Sixty Catholics from the greater Baltimore region gathered for a workshop Saturday, June 9th, to discuss ways to protect Maryland’s newly-minted marriage equality law from a referendum challenge in November.
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, was the keynote speaker for the event, which also included a panel of speakers representing a variety of perspectives supporting marriage equality: Rose Glorioso and Donna Senft, a married lesbian couple; Erma Durkin, the mother of a gay man who is married; Mark Clark, a gay man who had been previously married to a woman; and Karin Quimby, the field director for the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign.
The event, which took place at Goucher College, Towson, Maryland, was sponsored by the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland coalition which is comprised of faithful Catholic individuals and organizations, including: Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, Dignity/Washington, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center/Catholics Speak Out, Thomas More Project, Viva House, Women-Church—Baltimore, and WATER–Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics & Ritual.
Ryan Sattler, a member of Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, who served as spokesperson for the event, described the meeting’s purpose:
“Despite negative messages about marriage equality from our hierarchy, lay Catholics support legal recognition for the committed relationships of lesbian and gay couples. Our Catholic tradition of justice requires that we support lesbian and gay couples not only to protect their families, but to strengthen the common good.”
Participants at the workshop discussed a number of strategies to support the marriage equality bill including pledging to go to the polls in November, encouraging other Catholics to do the same, raising funds to support the campaign for marriage equality, talking with their pastors about the referendum, and attending a rally in the fall for Catholics who support marriage equality.
Towson’s Patch.com interviewed Sister Gramick before the event to get her perspective on marriage equality. She stated:
“It’s a great shame that the leaders of my church—the bishops—are all out there campaigning against marriage equality. I want to be proud of my church and that makes me very ashamed.”
Patch.com also interviewed Catholic gay couple Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn, for their opinions on the church’s involvement in marriage equality politics:
” ‘I think one thing I discovered growing up Catholic is that the institutional church doesn’t necessarily speak for the parishioners,’ Kolesar said. ‘I think homosexuality and gay marriage is one area where the church leadership and laity diverge.’
“In fact, a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 52 percent of Catholics believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
“Wojahn, a College Park councilman, said it’s not the church’s place to comment on civil marriages.
” ”m not going to tell the Catholic Church what they should or should not believe,” he said. “But our state shouldn’t discriminate.’
“Gramick said she plans to do her best to avoid just that.
” ‘What I believe the Vatican is trying to do is stamp out questioning, to stamp out dissent; to really destroy any kind of thinking that’s different,’ she said.”
Catholics for Marriage Equality—Maryland also plans two more workshops for Catholics in the state: on September 29th in Prince George’s County and on October 6th in Montgomery County.
Information about these workshops and the coalition’s other events can be found on their Facebook page.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry