Maryland Delegate Keiffer Mitchell, Jr. and (NOM Founder) Maggie Gallagher debated Question 6 (The Civil Marriage Protection Act) on Tuesday night at Morgan State University. The debate was organized by the Baltimore City League of Woman Voters and moderated by Marc Steiner.
Roughly 70 people were in attendance in a theater that appeared it could hold several hundred.
Each speaker had ten minutes to make an introductory speech. Audience members had an opportunity to write their questions on index cards which were then selectively presented to the panelists.
Both speakers talked of their personal involvement with the Question 6 issue.
Delegate Mitchell spoke of his personal involvement with the legislative debate in Annapolis when the bill was passed in February 2012 and his impressive family history which included his grandmother Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Parren Mitchell III, Clarence Mitchell, Jr. whom all had involvement in the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Delegate Mitchell made it clear that he thinks marriage equality is first and foremost an issue of “fairness and equality”, then he went on to say he thought marriage equality is also a civil rights issue. “Not in the same sense as THE Civil Rights Movement is, but we in the African American community cannot say ‘I got mine, now you can’t have any.’” He continued with, “As a father I want my children to grow up and get married whether they turn out to be gay or straight.”
Maggie Gallagher argued from the oppositional point of view.
She claims that changing the definition of marriage is something that no one should be allowed to do. “Marriage has always been about procreation.” Listening to the groaning chatter in the auditorium at that moment I believe the audience disagreed. I wanted to ask her if it wasn't correct that at a time many years ago if marriage wasn't actually a financial transaction that took place to transfer a father’s ownership of his daughter to the husband. I never got to ask my question.
We forget that marriage has been viewed in different ways across the history of human relationships. It may be “traditional” for society to have recognized marriage as between one man and one woman as Gallagher stipulates, but slavery was also an economic tradition for many hundreds of years and part of the American tradition until Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in the 1860s. It was a tradition. It was a bad tradition and we evolved to a new understanding of the morality of enslaving people. We are now in the process of evolving on the issues surrounding sexual orientation.
To sum up the mood of the room, Marc Steiner pointed out that there were no questions challenging the support of Question 6. All of the cards he had before him were challenging Ms Gallagher’s position. Steiner stopped the proceedings to directly ask the audience if there was anyone who wanted to challenge the pro marriage equality stance of Delegate Mitchell. The room remained quiet.
Towards the end of the conversation a question arose about the legitimacy of marriage as an institution. Gallagher seemed to be suggesting that if society was moving in this direction. “In the end maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.” Her comment seems to indicate that she was capitulating to the idea that pro marriage equality forces are about to win for the first time. To be fair I didn’t get to ask her if this is what she meant.
In her closing statement Gallagher said, I will be voting for Question 4 and against Question 6 because my church has asked me to vote this way.” Other Catholics in the auditorium have indicated that the church urges Catholics to use their own consciences to make their own moral choices. These other Catholics belong to the organization Maryland Catholics for Equality.
Delegate Mitchell closed with, “It all comes down to ‘Fairness and Equality.”
This debate is still happening. If you support Marriage Equality please know that we have not yet won. Out-of-state money and money from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has infused MILLIONS of dollars into the [Anti] Marriage [Equality] Alliance and they will say and do anything to keep their string of victories alive. Gallagher reemphasized again last night that “No state has ever voted to support Same-Sex Marriage.” What she failed to recognize is the degree to which they have voted again it has become a smaller and smaller margin of victory. Maryland can become the first state to win this vote. And wouldn’t it be ironic to win this in Maggie Gallagher’s home state!