Gay Marriage

Black Voters Hold Key to Gay Marriage in Maryland

The group's views are shifting faster than those of the general public

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The Rev. Delman Coates remembers how the long stalemate over gay marriage was finally broken in the Maryland General Assembly. He remembers because he helped to break it.

Coates, a black minister who heads an 8,000-member Baptist church, decided in February to publicly support a bill to allow same-sex marriage. The same proposal had failed in the legislature the year before. But Coates testified alongside Governor Martin O'Malley in front of a legislative committee in favor of the bill. Black ministers have been some of the most vocal critics of same-sex marriage in Maryland, so the symbolism of having a prominent black pastor on the other side was lost on no one. Coates also talked to individual lawmakers and helped sway a few on the eve of the vote. In the end, lawmakers approved the measure and O'Malley signed it March 1.