A Bill which would have made homosexual marriage legal in one of America’s most liberal states has been thrown out.
Both sides of the debate expressed surprise at the outcome, as it had been touted as a “done deal”.
And it is widely believed that Maryland’s black churches were key in securing the Bill’s defeat.
In the only public debate on the matter held by the House of Delegates this year, a number of openly homosexual delegates urged their colleagues to legalise same-sex marriages as a matter of civil rights.
“Like everyone else on this panel”, said Del. Anne Kaiser for Montgomery County, “I see this as a very important civil rights issue.”
And Del. Mary Washington for Baltimore echoed her views, stating: “Your courageousness in continuing Maryland’s tradition of righting social injustice is before you right now.”
But Derek McCoy, President of the Maryland Family Council, said: “This is not a civil rights issue”.
He went on: “This is an issue where there are a group of radical folks who want to push an agenda and want to redefine it for everybody else.”
The Bill had already been through the more conservative State Senate last month, so it came as a surprise to all concerned when the House of Delegates rejected it.
The failure of the Bill to be made law has been put down to the “mass mobilization” of the State’s African-American churches.
The Baltimore Sun wrote: “Advocates [of gay marriage] didn’t anticipate the mass mobilization of black churches, which began preaching against the legislation and urging parishioners to contact their lawmakers.”
And Brian Brown, President of the National Organisation for Marriage (NOM), said: “This was a big victory. We were told this is a done deal, same sex marriage will pass.
“If you look back a few months ago”, he went on, “I don’t think anyone would have predicted this.”
The impact of African-American churches on the Bill’s defeat was significant, according to a number of delegates.
“Black churches have never asked us for anything”, said Del. Cheryl Glenn during the debate. “They are asking us now, ‘Don’t use the word marriage'”.
And Baltimore Democrat Del. Tamadge Branch said his pastor had lobbied him heavily, while other pastors had raised the matter passionately during church services.
The Rev. Franklin Lance, pastor at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Baltimore, said members asked questions about gay marriage at Bible study.
“From my perspective just in talking to my congregants, we have simply been saying that we believe that marriage should be defined as man and woman,” he said.
“This is not to be negative toward or restricted toward or biased toward anyone else”, he added.
“We do believe that [marriage] is sacred. We believe it’s holy.”