HRC Blog

Baptist Minister Sees His Church Attendance Increase After Supporting Civil Marriage Equality in MD

MD for Marriage EqualityPost submitted by Kevin Nix, Former HRC Campaign Media Director

The effort to win marriage equality in is picking up some heavyweights in the Maryland faith community. Reverend Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County stood with Governor Martin O’Malley (D) last month when he introduced his Civil Marriage Protection Act. After that January public appearance, reported the Washington Post yesterday,  “Coates took in more new members than usual for the three Sunday services beginning at 7:30 a.m. through about 1 p.m. ‘It was our best Sunday in eight years,’ said Coates. ‘The people in the pew are further along on this issue than those of us in the pulpit.’”

On Friday, Rev. Coates gave passionate testimony before a legislative committee, making his position very clear: the Governor’s bill is about government policy, not religious marriage. “As a matter of public policy, I believe it is the obligation of the State to insure that all of her citizens are protected equally under the law,” he told lawmakers. “[The legislation] provides equal rights for same gender couples, while at the same time preserving religious freedom and protecting the autonomy of religious institutions and their clergy.”

Rev. Donte Hickman, a Baptist Pastor in multiple locations including Baltimore City, also testified before the House of Delegates on Friday in support of the Governor’s bill. “I can support the Civil Marriage Protection Act, because Civil Marriage is not synonymous with Religious Marriage, and is therefore not being imposed upon the faith community to acknowledge, authorize, sanction, or perform its rituals and ceremonies,” he told legislators.

Others in Maryland’s faith community have been speaking up in a video produced by the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition, which is grateful to the leadership of Governor O’Malley and Revs. Coates and Hickman. 

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