BALTIMORE - Religious leaders of many different faiths are uniting to try and defeat a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland.
It is sure to be one of the most hotly-debated issues in the 2012 legislative session, which opens in less than six weeks.
A group calling itself the Maryland Marriage Alliance held two news conferences on Wednesday, the first in Prince Georges County, the second, at the First Apostolic Faith Church in East Baltimore.
"God created marriage as a union of one man and one woman, and surely as he created the very universe in which we live," said Minister Daryl Brace of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
Same-sex marriage was narrowly defeated during the 2011 legislative session.
The clergy members say the goal of defeating it again is the one thing that brings them all together. "Marriage touches every aspect of our faith. And every aspect of our society in a way that transcends all other issues," said Pastor Bob Borger of the Annapolis Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Unlike previous years, in 2012 Governor O'Malley will sponsor the same sex marriage bill. He appears in an on-line video saying he supports marriage equality. The group Equality Maryland and others put together several of the videos, which now include the former head of the NAACP, Julian Bond, the actress Monique, and Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo.
"We want to be married for the same reasons that everyone wants to be married because we want to make a family and we'd like to be protected in doing so," said Lisa Polyak of Equality Maryland.
They say they also have religious leaders on their side, and their fight, they say, is for their families. "Children who are gay or lesbian, children who have parents who are gay or lesbian, to have to hear on television or from their community leaders that their families are not entitled to equal rights. I know for my children that's particularly painful," Polyak said.
But the ministers say allowing same sex marriage would infringe on their rights and their beliefs.
"Our message is very clear and very simple. Marriage is between one man and one woman, period," said Pastor Derek McCoy, of the Maryland Marriage Alliance.