Ignorance on parade in opposition to gay marriage

February 09, 2011

Advances in equal rights seem to evoke the most visceral and uninformed responses among the opposition, as can be seen in the letter to the editor "Gays want special status, not equal rights" by David G. O'Neill.

Mr. O'Neill states that "the state Court of Appeals has ruled against [gay marriage.]" This is inaccurate. In 2007, in the case Conaway v. Deane, the Court of Appeals held that Maryland's current statutory prohibition against gay marriage was constitutional. This case did not determine whether gay marriage was right or wrong, just that the Maryland and U.S. constitutions allow our citizens to decide.

Currently, we have a law in place outlawing gay marriage, but the Conaway decision allows our state to re-examine the issue and grant the right to marriage legislatively.

In a more troubling assertion, Mr. O'Neill then states that teachers or ministers could be prosecuted for not promoting same-sex couples and alleges that those expressing religious opinions against homosexuality could be charged with hate speech. It is obvious that Mr. O'Neill has no idea what is in this bill. Importantly, the bill guarantees protection for religious beliefs, as it ensures that no religious official will be required to solemnize a marriage in which he or she doesn't believe. There is nothing in this bill requiring educational promotion of same-sex marriage or criminalization of opinions against homosexuality. Indeed, our Constitution protects those beliefs and expressions.

Opposition like Mr. O'Neill's fundamentally misjudges the gay marriage issue. It is not that same-sex couples are seeking to impose anything on the public. They just want the freedom to make official their private relationships. It will have as little a negative effect on society as the legalization of interracial marriage did last century.

James Bragdon, Baltimore

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