- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

BALTIMORE — About 30 religious leaders from across Maryland joined forces yesterday to voice support of homosexual “marriage” and for a lawsuit challenging state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“We are here today because we do not believe the religious right speaks for all people of faith,” said the Rev. Anthony W. McCarthy of the Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore, a multidenominational ministry serving about 300 black homosexuals.

The ministers, rabbis and Episcopal priests held a press conference at the Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church USA.

They said their public support of homosexual “marriage” has not caused a rift in their congregations or met significant opposition among parishioners.

However, several of the clerics — representing Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and Reformed Jews — described their congregations as progressive with a sizable number of homosexual members.

The clergy called on the state’s Circuit Court for Baltimore City to rule in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit on behalf of nine homosexual couples seeking state-sanctioned “marriages.”

The case stems from the refusal of clerks of the court to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Baltimore city and Dorchester, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Washington counties.

Judge M. Brooke Murdock is scheduled to hear arguments in the case this morning. Regardless of his ruling, the issue likely will be settled by a higher court.

The spiritual leaders echoed the ACLU claim that the state’s definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman violates homosexuals’ guarantee of equality under the Maryland Constitution.

Andrew Foster Connors, pastor at the Brown Memorial Park Avenue church, said he had the full support of church leaders and that only a few members had expressed concern about his championing homosexual “marriage.”

“It is more of a concern with whether this is the right time and place to take a public stand,” he said.

Mr. Connors, who has led the 250-member congregation for a year, said the church has a growing homosexual contingency because it embraces homosexuals.

“If you are uncomfortable with that, you probably wouldn’t stay [in the congregation] for long,” he said.

Among Mr. Connors’ parishioners are two of the plaintiffs, Gita Deane and Lisa Polyak, who have been in a lesbian relationship for 24 years and are raising two daughters, ages 6 and 9.

“You have stood strong with so much courage and grace that it is the least we can do as ministers to stand with you,” Mr. Connors told the two women as he stood at the pulpit during the press conference.

Still, the larger Presbyterian Church has forbidden its ministers from conducting homosexual “marriage” ceremonies or blessings of homosexual relationships. Mr. Connors said some of his parishioners have urged him to challenge the edict.

The Rev. Victoria R. Sirota, vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, said her predominantly black congregation of 130 includes members who are offended by homosexuality but also support homosexuals on the marriage issue.

“It is unusual,” Mrs. Sirota said. “I know that not everybody agrees and some people struggle more than other people with it. … [But] it is not just tolerance. It is support for having justice in our community.”

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