At the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where my wife and I are parishioners, Mass this past Sunday concluded with the reading of a letter from CardinalEdwin F. O'Brien, strongly urging Catholics to support the referendum against gay marriage. The basis of the opposition is that gay marriage is inconsistent with the Christian concept of marriage. In The Sun the same day, former Gov.Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.advanced a slightly different claim, that gay marriage is inconsistent with our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Catholics should know better. In Colonial Maryland, Catholics were denied the right to vote or hold civil office because they were out of step with the prevailing religious norms. The illustrious Charles Carroll of Carrollton could not vote in Maryland when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Jesuit priests were expelled from the Colony in chains.

Religious freedom imposes burdens and benefits. It freed Catholics to observe their religion. But it also means that Catholics cannot turn around and deny a civil right such as marriage to those deemed in conflict with Catholic teachings.

John C. Murphy, Baltimore