WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Friday, September 21st at 11 a.m., a coalition of prominent African-American pastors and clergy from around the country will hold a press conference at the National Press Club to announce their support for marriage equality legislation, and in particular, the Civil Marriage Protection Act in Maryland. The group will urge Marylanders to vote "Yes" on Question 6 of the Maryland ballot referendum. According to the group's convener, the Rev. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MD, "The group of pastors that will assemble have a range of personal religious views and church practices as it relates to same sex marriage. Some perform same sex marriages and others do not. And yet, we stand united in the conviction that the role of the state is to protect the equal rights of all its citizens and should not codify discrimination as a matter of law and public policy."
In February of this year, the Maryland State General Assembly passed the Civil Marriage Act that allows same sex couples to receive a civil marriage license. The law explicitly exempts religious institutions and clergy who do not affirm or perform same sex marriages if it is inconsistent with their beliefs and practices. According to Rev. Todd Yeary, Senior Pastor of the Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, "I can fully support the Civil Marriage Protection Act because it in no way forces any church to acknowledge or perform same sex marriages if it is incompatible with its beliefs. This is about protecting all families and ensuring that we have a society where everyone is treated equally as a matter of law without the imposition of religious dogma."
This November, Maryland voters will be asked in a ballot referendum whether to support the Civil Marriage Protection Act. If passed, this would be the first time in the country a marriage equality law would pass through voter referendum. "We are urging Marylanders," said Coates, "to vote 'Yes' on Question 6, and to make sure all couples and their families are treated fairly and equally under the law." According to Coates, the Rev. Al Sharpton, President and CEO of the National Action Network, will join the group of prominent African-American pastors from Maryland and around the country attending and speaking at the event. Says Coates, "The impression that all African-American pastors are fundamentally opposed to the idea of marriage equality is wrong. This event will display just a small cohort of influential African-American clergy voices who support the issue of civil marriage protection for gay and lesbian couples."