Gay Marriage

Black Voters Hold Key to Gay Marriage in Maryland

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


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.