Chairman Frosh, Vice Chairwoman Gladden, Members of the Committee:
As a free and diverse people of many faiths, we choose to be governed under the law by certain fundamental principles or beliefs, among them the belief we share in the dignity of every individual, a belief in “equal protection of the law” for every individual, and a belief in the “free exercise” of religion without government interference.
The very reason for our State’s founding was for religious freedom. At the heart of religious freedom is respect for the freedom of individual conscience.
The way forward, the way to sustain and enhance our common life together is equal respect for the freedom of all. We all want the same thing for our children; the opportunity to live in loving, caring, committed, and stable homes protected equally under the law
It is not right or it is not just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our State. Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own beliefs and their own teachings.
As you know, we already recognize civil marriages performed in other states and just over our border in the District of Columbia. The civil marriage equality bill that you consider today draws upon the lessons we’ve learned from these other States.
This bill balances equal protection of individual civil marriage rights with the important protection of religious freedom for all.
Because it protects both these unalienable rights, it is supported by a broad coalition of Marylanders, which includes clergy, community leaders, faith based organizations, civil rights groups, and those who hold the most important title of all in our democracy: the title of citizen.
In conclusion, the common thread running through each of the issues we are addressing this session is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of faith, the dignity of home, the dignity of every family in our State, the dignity of every individual,…
… The dignity of a free and diverse people who at the end of the day, all want the same thing for our children.