- - Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maryland voters will have the opportunity in November to vote for or against homosexual “marriage.” A vote for Question 6 is a vote to affirm the Maryland General Assembly’s narrow vote to legalize homosexual “marriage,” while a vote against Question 6 is a vote to keep the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

When Gov. Martin O’Malley and others helped push the redefinition of marriage through the legislature last spring, they assured us that religious liberty would be protected. The disciplinary action taken against Angela McCaskill by her employer, Gallaudet University, should give voters pause. Ms. McCaskill’s case is a clear illustration of the threat posed to religious liberty by the legalization of homosexual “marriage.”

People across the political spectrum were shocked and dismayed to learn about Ms. McCaskill’s suspension. Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz suspended her merely for being one of almost 200,000 Marylanders who exercised their right to sign the petition placing the issue of the definition of marriage on the ballot.

Legislators claimed they were protecting religious liberty by stating that pastors would not be required to perform homosexual “marriage” ceremonies in their churches. Such protections against forced weddings, however, add nothing to the protections already offered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Incidents like the one at Gallaudet highlight the more immediate threat to religious liberty posed by the push for homosexual “marriage.” A person’s very livelihood has been jeopardized merely because she exercised her First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. If this is what happens even when the law is not yet on the side of homosexual “marriage,” what conscientious objector to the redefinition of marriage will be safe after the law changes?

Ms. McCaskill is a pioneer: She is the first deaf black woman to earn a doctorate at Gallaudet. She has been an administrator at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf and at the U. S. Department of Education. She has served Gallaudet for more than 23 years in a number of roles, and in 2011, she became deputy to the president and associate provost of diversity and inclusion.

Ms. McCaskill is also a Christian who worships at Reid Temple A.M.E. Church, based in Glenn Dale, Md. The church website states that congregants believe in the extension of love and grace to persons from all walks of life, while also maintaining an unshakable commitment to the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ.

As an expression of love and grace, they offer ministries to a wide range of people, including those society may reject, such as those in prison or with HIV/AIDS. At the same time, they have sought to obey Christ’s command to be salt and light to the community and the world by speaking out on issues of social justice and moral values. Examples of the latter include their opposition to gambling expansion and, yes, to the redefinition of marriage in Maryland. Pastor Lee P. Washington reportedly urged members of his congregation to sign the Maryland marriage petition.

Some have suggested that Ms. McCaskill’s signing of the petition was inappropriate specifically because it was inconsistent with her role as Gallaudet’s chief diversity officer, a post that includes responsibility for serving the needs of lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender students. However, one need not be hostile to such persons to recognize the obvious and undeniable reality that there is a difference between homosexual unions and heterosexual ones. Only the latter are capable of resulting in natural procreation, and that creates a much greater public interest in providing unique public recognition of heterosexual relationships or marriage.

Indeed, signing the marriage petition does not even guarantee that someone will vote against homosexual “marriage” at the polls. Some advocates of homosexual “marriage” recognize that this significant change in social policy might be seen as having more legitimacy in the eyes of the people if it were approved by the people rather than just being muscled through the legislative process.

Concerns about voter intimidation have been in the news in recent years. Intimidation of those who exercise their right to petition the government should be as great a concern as intimidation of those who exercise their right to vote.

Unfortunately, Ms. McCaskill’s situation is not unique. Similar career retribution merely for respectfully opposing homosexual “marriage” has been suffered by a salesman in Massachusetts, a theater director in California, a social worker in Maine, a sportscaster in Canada and others.

There undoubtedly will be more such cases if homosexual “marriage” becomes legal in Maryland on Jan. 1, as the legislature’s bill provides. The best way to protect religious liberty and to protect one-man-one-woman marriage is to vote against Question 6 on Election Day.

Peter Sprigg is a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.

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