Below is the testimony of Dignity/Washington President Allen Rose given before the Maryland House of Delegates joint-committee hearings on the Civil Marriage Protection Ac (Friday, Feb. 10, 2012).
My name is Allen Rose. I am the president of Dignity/Washington. 25% of our members live in Maryland. We are a community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Catholics, our families and friends. Dignity/Washington serves the spiritual and religious needs of LGBT Catholics in a manner that affirms God’s love for LGBT people, by providing a variety of activities, including a Gay-affirming Catholic Mass every Sunday.
I am here today to testify on behalf of the 45 Dignity/Washington members who are citizens of Maryland who are currently unable to marry the person they love. Some of our members have been in committed relationships for 15 or 20 years, and see in this legislation the opportunity to receive the same rights, benefits and recognition of their relationship that their parents, married siblings and married friends in opposite-sex relationships were easily granted when they decided to marry. I look forward to the day when any of these 45 citizens who so choose, will be able to marry the person of their choice just like any other loving couple. Our members in Maryland live in Takoma Park, Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and many other places around the state.
Since I am here representing a community of LGBT Catholics, I want to speak in support of civil marriage equality from a Catholic Perspective. We are disappointed that the Catholic bishops of Maryland are opposed to this legislation, We know they do not speak for all of the Roman Catholics in Maryland. As a matter of fact, on this issue, they do not even speak for most of the Catholics in Maryland. More Catholics support marriage equality than oppose it.
For an ordained Catholics to speak in favor of this legislation carries professional risks. Therefore, it is generally up to those of us who have no ordained standing within the Church, but who claim our Catholicism by virtue of our baptism, and who draw strength and support from Catholic traditions and practices, to do our best to attempt to represent those many Catholics who support marriage equality. A large majority of American and Maryland Catholics now see marriage equality as an issue of social justice.
Since I have been speaking as a Catholic in support of civil marriage equality, I have been talking freely about religion and religious belief. This bill, however, is about civil marriage, not religious marriage. This bill has strong provisions that protect religions, so that clergy are not required to marry same gender couples. We at Dignity/Washington agree with, and strongly support this provision of the bill. This provision further protects private church ceremonies and practices.
Part of our mission at Dignity/Washington is to speak truth to power by giving prophetic witness to the truth that we are all born in the image and likeness of a loving God, and that Gay men and Lesbians are a natural part of God’s plan for humanity. We preach this message to our own church’s leaders and to society at large.
Dignity/Washington urges the members of these committees, and all of your colleagues in the House of Delegates, to support The Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012. It is right and just.