If you believe in freedom of religion, you must support marriage equality

November 12, 2011

This week Maryland's Catholic bishops, men of deeply help moral and theological convictions, issued a call to their parishioners and to the public to protect freedom of religion in Maryland ("Bishops assail same-sex marriage," Nov. 10). It is an impressive rhetorical defense of one of the most basic of natural rights, one not only enshrined in our Constitution but one that led to the founding of our state.

But the bishops fundamentally undermine their own argument when they attempt to use freedom of religion to justify their efforts to continue depriving same-sex couples in Maryland of another basic freedom: The freedom to marry. With all due respect, I would ask of the bishops the question posed in Luke 6:41, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

The reality is that for many Marylanders, the state's continuing to deprive so many citizens of the right to marry is a violation of our freedom of religion.

I am a Unitarian-Universalist. While my religion does not require conformance to a creed, the first principle of our shared beliefs is respect for the essential worth and dignity of every human being. I believe, as a matter of faith, in that greatest statement of our founding fathers, that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."

Marriage is among these unalienable rights. If Unitarians believe in the essential worth and dignity of every human being, we must believe that our gay and lesbian congregants are just as deserving of the right to marriage as our straight congregants.

My church would like to be able to give to all of our families the same spiritual and legal recognition of their union. We are prevented from doing so by current law, and by those who are driven by their own faith to deny us the free practice of our own.

If Maryland's bishops are indeed so deeply concerned about religious freedom, why is it that they seek to deny that freedom to religions like mine? If, as they write in their statement, "religious freedom protects the ability to practice any faith," why do they seek to exclude from state recognition marriages performed not just by Unitarians, but by clergy of many faiths who would unite all loving families in the bonds of matrimony?

As a man of faith myself, I have deep respect for the men who lead the Catholic Church in Maryland. I believe them to be well-intentioned, and I believe them to be driven by profound conviction. I will always respect their right to free exercise of their faith. I simply ask that they show the same respect for my faith, and the faiths of the majority of Marylanders who support marriage equality.

Eric Luedtke, Annapolis

The writer, a Democrat, represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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