This despite the fact that Church officials are opposed.
The debate over the same-sex marriage referendum is heating up, and one organization is pushing for passage. Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland is urging voters to say "yes" to question six, which would allow for gay and lesbian couples to wed, despite strong opposition for the Church's bishops, cardinals and other officials.
"There's a strong majority of Catholics across the country, polls have showing, are in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples," says Francis DeBernardo with the group.
DeBernardo says these Catholics support it because of their faith, not despite it. "They favor it because they favor equality and fairness for people. They favor it because their Catholic social teaching has taught them to respect the dignity of every individual, and work for justice for those individuals," he says.
A bill to allow same-sex marriage in Maryland was passed by the General Assembly this year, and signed into law by Governor Martin O'Malley. Opponents collected more than 113,000 signatures to put this issue before the voters in a referendum in November.
During the debate over the bill, opponents expressed concerns that it would lead to requirements that all churches and religious institutions, even those which oppose marriage for gays and lesbians, perform weddings for same-sex couples. But DeBernardo says that's not correct. "The law that was passed in the spring, and the referendum question that's being proposed for November, both protect the rights of religious institutions to decide who they want to marry," he says.
Instead of marriage, some states have civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. But DeBernardo says they don't offer the same legal protections for a couple as marriage. "We don't think that we should separate one group of people into a separate category with separate laws," says DeBernardo.
Despite strong opposition from Church officials, DeBernardo says members of Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland have not been refused the sacraments at their churches, or been turned away by parish priests or other Catholics. "These are good and faithful Catholics who attend mass weekly, and are active in their parish. None of them have ever been told they can't participate in church functions," he says.
Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland is planning a forum next month in Rockville. It will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6th from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street.