As executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, I am compelled to address Julian Bond’s recent opinion editorial featured in The Afro on Sept. 5.

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Bond. He holds an honored place in the Civil Rights movement. In his role as chairman emeritus of the NAACP, he continues to speak out with passion and conviction on issues of civil rights. However, by equating the same-sex marriage movement to the civil rights movement, Mr. Bond is simply wrong.

During the civil rights movement, thousands of Americans, both black and white, were literally being murdered in the struggle to give African Americans basic freedoms. What were those freedoms? They were fighting for access to education, access to health care, access to jobs, access to decent housing. They were literally fighting for the freedom to be able to move around in their own country.

Gays and lesbians who want to redefine marriage have no such struggle. They are protesting because they are not able to call a relationship what it is not. The definition of marriage predates me, Julian Bond, the state of Maryland and the United States of America. If we agree that it is an arbitrary definition that can change today to be a loving relationship between any pair of adults, regardless of gender, who is to say that in 10 years it cannot be arbitrarily changed again.

Our work across the state shows that Marylanders do not believe that the definition of marriage should change. Even after the president and the NAACP threw their weight behind same-sex marriage, our alliance garnered over 200,000 signatures for a petition to protect the definition of marriage. This number was more than three times the number required, so many that the Maryland State Board of Elections stopped counting.

In 32 states American families have considered this issue around the dinner table and in 32 states they have seen the great value in upholding the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Mr. Bond, like many who wish to redefine marriage, attempts to cast people who oppose them as homophobic and bent on forcing gays and lesbians into some sort of pre-civil rights movement second-class citizenship. Supporters of the Maryland Marriage Alliance who believe that marriage should not be redefined have no overt or covert design.

Upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman does not sanction abusive behavior toward gays and lesbians in employment, education, health care, housing or any other area. What the referendum does is affirm that “marriage,” the one relationship that transcends the ages and is critical for the very survival of human kind, is the unique relationship between one man and one woman.

Like Mr. Bond, most of us have people in our family and associations for whom we care deeply who happened to be gay or lesbian. They have every right to live as they choose, but to redefine marriage for everyone is not acceptable.

Mr. McCoy is chairman of the Maryland Marriage Alliance.

Derek McCoy

Special to the AFRO