Supporters of marriage equality rights in Maryland worked hard for the state's same-sex marriage law, and group of UCC churches are now working together to uphold that law, which is being challenged in the fall election.
"There need to be clear voices in support of marriage equality, and who better than the UCC," said the Rev. John R. Deckenback, Central Atlantic Conference Minister.
As opponents of the marriage equality law lined up, Deckenback and the Rev. Barbara Kershner-Daniel responded by forming Advocating for Marriage Equality Now! (AMEN!), a group of about 15-20 UCC clergy and lay pastors in support of same-sex marriage. The group met several times in the summer to plan out upcoming actions to ensure the referendum passes on Election Day.
"To do something state-wide the Conference often acts as the vehicle, but in this instance we wanted to do more and have a clear UCC identity in doing so," Deckenback said. "So we called together folks to see if there was interest, and there was."
Kershner-Daniel, senior pastor at Evangelical Reformed UCC in Frederick, Md., will work with the AMEN! group to build a list of public events to attend and share her stories about why the issue is important to the state. If the referendum is upheld, the law would take effect January 2013.
"We as clergy should have a choice as to who we marry," she said.
Deckenback said he will meet with the AMEN! group this week as they strategize their next steps for September and October. AMEN! also works with other coalitions that share the same goal, including Marylanders for Equality, and Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
The Marylanders for Marriage Equality will present a forum on the issue Wednesday, Aug. 22, for members of the deaf community at 6 p.m. at Evangelical Reformed UCC. Kershner-Daniel said her congregation space will be used for events like this as the church takes the lead in the UCC's voice and presence in the Maryland area. That presence will include bumper stickers, yard signs, and phone banks that call Maryland residents to encourage voters to visit the polls on Election Day (Nov. 6).
The marriage equality law, which Maryland governor Martin O'Malley supports, went into effect March 1 but was challenged by opponents who gained enough petition signatures, necessitating the upcoming referendum. In Maryland's case, a "Yes" vote is a vote supporting the current law.
"Of course as a congregation we can support an issue like this – an issue of consciousness and faith – and we think that will mobilize a lot of people," Kershner-Daniel said. "We're just praying and working slowly at it every day."