A coalition of Baptist and Catholic leaders spoke on Thursday before the General Assembly in Annapolis in favor of marriage equality legislation in Maryland, joining others in an increasing trend towards equality. Members of the coalition broke ties with the hierarchies within their traditions in order to express support for equal marriage rights for all couples and push for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which would legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples while protecting religious freedom. Despite these protections, resistance from religious officials has been strong. But marriage equality advocate Sister Jeannine Gramick of the National Coalition of Nuns said, “The Christian church’s appreciation of the inviolability of religious freedom, its sexual theology and even the meaning of marriage have all changed over time.” Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman declared that he would abandon his plan to introduce a civil unions bill, and vote for marriage instead. “I’m proud to be a Republican. I think I’m one of the strongest Republicans in the state of Maryland,” he told Metro Weekly. “Republicans believe in less government intervention. That’s what the same-sex marriage bill does.” Governor Martin O’Malley has said he would sign the legislation. Lieutenant Governor (and potential candidate for governor in 2014) Anthony Brown has also expressed support for the bill, which LGBT advocates believe could significantly help defeat a 2012 voter referendum if the legislature passes it this year. “I have always believed that all Marylanders should have an equality of rights and responsibilities and that includes marriage equality,” Brown said. Marriage for gay and lesbian couples took a step forward on Tuesday as the General Assembly heard "personal stories, emotional pleas and arguments about how allowing gay couples to marry could help Maryland's economy," during its seven-hour hearing on marriage, reports The Washington Post. After picking up two seats in the Senate and maintaining their supermajority in each chamber, CNN reports that Maryland Democrats have overcome “the final hurdle” needed to pass the bill. “This is the year Maryland will once and for all pass legislation to protect all of its individuals and families – from employment to marriage, it is time to treat all our citizens fairly,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, one of the most prominent organizations working to ensure the bill's passage. GLAAD has been working closely with Equality Maryland, and will continue to monitor media coverage of marriage developments in the state. We hope to have another update later today including information from yesterday's hearing.
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