In an election season steeped in religious rhetoric, a hot-button topic is on the ballot in four states. Voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington will be weighing in on equal rights for their LGBT neighbors. Cathy Marino-Thomas, co-president of Marriage Equality USA, briefs us on the matter’s status in those states, on MEUSA’s work nationwide, and on several important Supreme Court cases that could impact the progress of fairness for all families.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Cathy Marino-Thomas[REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: Welcome back to State of Belief Radio everyone, I’m Welton Gaddy.
Last year on this show, I had the pleasure of speaking with Cathy Marino-Thomas, then head of Marriage Equality New York, during those suspenseful hours before that state’s legislature finally passed its marriage equality law. Since then, Maryland’s governor signed a similar law, and several states have made progress on the issue. There have also been aggressive, well-funded campaigns to roll back these fundamental family rights in several states, and in November, some voters will be called upon to cast a ballot potentially restricting the rights of their fellow Americans.
Also since then, Cathy Marino-Thomas has moved up to become co-president of the organization Marriage Equality USA, and I am delighted to have her back with us today on State of Belief Radio. Cathy, welcome![CATHY MARINO-THOMAS, GUEST]: Hi, thanks. [WG]: Would you summarize briefly the key battleground states where marriage equality is in play, and, kind of, what’s going on there? [CM]: There’s a lot going on! We at Marriage Equality USA are focusing on four states in particular for this election season. We are focusing on Maryland – that has their governor’s support of marriage equality, but it has been placed on a referendum allowing the people to vote on the issue of whether or not to keep the law. We are focusing on Maine – in the same position as Maryland; Maine’s vote is actually the second go-round for their referendum, and we are, for the first time – as the LGBT community – has asked for that referendum, so that’s very interesting. We believe that the voting was not aboveboard last time, and we believe the votes in Maine are there for our equality. We are also focusing on Minnesota and Washington State, in similar situations as Maryland. [WG]: When you say you’re focusing – what kind of work are you doing in those states to get people ready for the vote? [CM]: Well, now that we have merged with our sister organization in California, we are a national group. We are working on phone banks across the country: we have a system that you can go either to a local phone banking center or you can phone bank from your computer at home, to try and reach out to voters in those key states, and explain to them the issue of marriage equality and why our families so badly need this civil right. We are also sending some “foot soldiers,” I like to call them, around to these states to do some good old-fashioned canvassing door to door on this issue. [WG]: Cathy, what is the “Twenty Million More” campaign? [CM]: We need twenty million more votes “Yes” for marriage equality to win marriage in those four key states that I’ve been discussing. The “Twenty Million More” campaign reaches out to other organizations to get them to sign on to working on these canvassing and phone banking opportunities. I’m happy to report that we have been very successful in signing on some of the bigger names in the LGBT advocacy world such as HRC and Freedom to Marry. Here in New York, we have the Empire State Pride Agenda signing on, etc, etc. On our website, twentymillionmore.org, there’s a list of all of the organizations that have signed on to support this effort. [WG]: Good. And the website is twentymillionmore.org. [CM]: Correct. [WG]: Wherever and whenever this issue comes up, any and all opposition to marriage equality always, it seems, always boils down to religious language. As a secular democracy, the rights of all of our citizens should simply not be defined by the religious beliefs of some of our citizens. Do you see the opposition as purely motivated by religion, or are there some other agendas at work? [CM]: Well, I think that our opposition’s bottom-line objections are two things: religion – and as you stated, has no place in a country where our Constitution is based on the separation of Church and State; and their view that gay men and lesbians are not fit to be parents. Now on this second issue, the data just does not support their view. There are varying estimates on the number of children that LGBTIQ parents are raising. But the data is clear that these children are just as likely to be well-adjusted as the progeny of a traditional union. There’s absolutely no data showing that children are harmed in any way by having parents of the same sex. [WG]: Imagine for a minute, Cathy, that I’m having a conversation with an opponent of marriage equality. What is the single most effective point that I can make, and how do I make it? [CM]: Well, what I usually say is the following: our families – they exist. They exist with or without support of the law; our love and commitment to one another also exists with or without support of the law; however, without support of the law we are dependent on society to take care of us. In support of the law we are free to take care of ourselves. So that is one place to go with your defense of marriage equality. [WG]: That’s a good one; and it helps people understand how to respond when sometimes that knowledge is always right at the tip of their tongue. For many LGBT Americans in bi-national relationships, the state-by-state adoption of marriage equality really is a cruel joke. It’s actually alarming how many progressive Americans seems to think that marrying a non-citizen same-sex partner now conveys some significant rights – when, in fact, it does no such thing. [CM]: It actually harms them. [WG]: Yes. So how far off do you think federal changes are, and are you all working on reaching that goal also? [CM]: Oh yes, absolutely. The good news is there are a few cases making their way through the system that have been presented to the Supreme Court. Two, in particular, are of high interest to me and to our organization. One is the Proposition 8 case, which I think anyone working on marriage equality is interested in; and the second is a case brought by a New York State widow, Edie Windsor, against the IRS. Both of these cases are supposed to be reviewed by the Supreme Court on September the 24th; if they decide they do not want to hear the Proposition 8 Case – that’s actually the way we would like them to go. If they don’t hear the case – we will win the case in California, and marriages will resume. The problem with that is that it’s centric to the state of California. Edie Windsor’s case, however, was brought against the IRS when her partner of forty-four years passed away, and Edie was presented with a tax bill of over $300,000. Edie is 84 years old, and she decided that she wanted the focus of the remainder of her life to be suing the IRS for the right to inherit tax-free from her wife of forty-four years. She actually won her case and was given a judgment of $352,000 to be paid back to her. Of course it was appealed, and it is now being presented to the Supreme Court. There again, if they refuse to hear the case, Edie will win her judgment; we will have then won, with our state-level marriage license, against the IRS – and that would be our first federal win. This would be a step in the right direction to challenging the Defense of Marriage Act at a federal level. [WG]: That is really encouraging news. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s difficult to talk and hold your breath at the same time – but when the Supreme Court is mentioned I hold my breath. [CM]: Me too. [WG]: OK. Since we need to finish this interview, I guess we’ll get back to holding our breaths off the air. [CM]: Absolutely. [WG]: Cathy, what resources does Marriage Equality USA offer for friends and allies who’d like to be more effective advocates for fairness for all families? [CM]: There are various places on our website that you can put in your name and number and volunteer for various things: the “Twenty Million More” campaign; our speakers’ bureau; getting just generally involved in the issue itself. Of course, if time is an issue for you, you can always donate money to help us do our work. Also available on our website, marriageequality.org, we have lots of work to do and we have lots of jobs to give away – so just send our executive director, Brian Silva, an email and tell him that you’re interested in working – and we will put you to work. [WG]: Cathy, it must’ve been wonderful to see marriage equality added to the Democratic National Convention’s platform. [CM]: Oh God, yes. [WG]: Earlier, the president’s endorsement made global headlines. Just how important are such declaration of support? [CM]: Well, they are extremely important. First of all, president Obama is the first president – sitting president – to actually come out in support of marriage equality – or just out for equality for all families, which is really the high level important issue here. We want everyone in this country to be treated the same, and he has certainly worked hard to get this country back to its founding principles. And I applaud him for that. The contrast between the two contestants, let’s call them, for the presidency is very, very wide. Obviously I’m a democrat, obviously I’m a president Obama supporter. It gives everyone hope; it gives people the knowledge that up there in the world of people who can actually make changes – they get it. [WG]: I’ve been talking with Cathy Marino-Thomas, co-president of Marriage Equality USA. She’s the former head of Marriage Equality New York, and we can only hope that the same level of success follows Cathy from the latter to the former. Cathy Marino-Thomas, thank you so much for joining us today on State of Belief Radio. [CM]: Thank you very much for having me.
State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world.
Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, ABC’s World News, and CNN’s American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets.
While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the convention’s Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.
Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.