By CAITLIN JOHNSTON
BALTIMORE—At a private event Wednesday evening, Archbishop William E. Lori and members of the faith community called Maryland's same-sex marriage referendum "misleading" and a "threat to marriage."
"This isn't about rights or needs or benefits," said Joe LeGath of St. Mark Church in Catonsville. "This is a subtle attack on religious freedom."
The event, co-sponsored by the Maryland Marriage Alliance and the Maryland Catholic Conference, was held at St. Mary's Seminary and University and was closed to the public and media.
The night featured the Archbishop, about 200 guests and several other speakers. Participants came from throughout Maryland, D.C., Delaware and New York, and included Catholics, Muslims, Evangelicals and other faiths.
Attendees received folders with commonly asked questions, fliers and pulpit announcements. Handouts outlined the "significant benefits" already granted to same-sex domestic partners and argued that Question 6 redefines marriage instead of protecting it.
In an interview on the sidewalk outside the event, LeGath said it was important to remember that the stance against same-sex marriage doesn't come from a place of hate.
"Everybody has a gay family member or friend. We love these people," LeGath said. "But why do we have to redefine marriage?"
The Archbishop laid out the foundation of the Bible's view on marriage while other speakers explained how the ballot language is misleading, said John O'Dower of St. Mark Church.
"It was about the truth behind the vote," O'Dower said. "You're taking away business. You're taking away individual rights. It's a whole erosion of things."
But Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesman Kevin Nix said the wording on Question 6 is clear and straightforward. The referendum calls for civil marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples while still protecting religious freedom.
"The truth of the matter is that Question 6 has some of the strongest religious protections in the country," Nix said. "Just as the Catholic Church can refuse to marry a Protestant or Jewish couple, the ballot wording makes it clear clergy can refuse to marry a gay couple, too. Religious freedom is protected. That's why so many clergy and people of faith are voting for Question 6."
In a Gonzales Research & Marketing poll released this week, 51 percent of voters said they will vote for Question 6 and same-sex marriage, while 43 percent said they will vote against it.
Anthony Bosnick of St. John Neumann Parish in Montgomery County said the event's speakers highlighted the importance of showing up at the ballot box in November, no matter which side the polls say is ahead.
"We have to wake up, get up and get out to vote," Bosnick said.