Largent's article is reprinted in its entirety below.
Sides Rally Faithful in Marriage Vote
By Brandon Largent
St. Cloud Times
December 10, 2011
With a vote now less than a year away on amending Minnesota’s constitution to define marriage as heterosexual only, organizations on both sides of the debate are rallying people of faith to hit the polls.
The marriage amendment, if passed in November, would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of faith leaders from the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Catholic Conference, National Organization for Marriage and other organizations, is identifying voters to get them out to vote in 2012, Minnesota for Marriage Director of Communications Chuck Darrell said.
“There is a growing movement to silence people of faith,” Darrell said.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference is reaching out to Catholic district bishops and down into the parishes across the state, setting up church captains to encourage people to vote “yes” on the marriage amendment, Darrell said.
“Churches not only have a constitutional right, but a duty to speak out on these issues in the public square,” Darrell said.
Protestant and evangelical factions also are reaching out to churches through pastors and activists, Darrell said.
The coalition manned booths at last summer’s Minnesota State Fair and the Christian Community Fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Nov. 12, Darrell said.
Organizations poised against the amendment also are reaching out to people of faith statewide.
OutFront Minnesota, a Minnesota organization fighting for gay equality, has a faith-organizing group looking to find more churches throughout the state that oppose the constitutional amendment, OutFront Minnesota Operations Director Adam Robbins said.
The faith organizers are looking to host training programs to help people learn how to tell their stories about why marriage for same-sex couples matters to them, OutFront Minnesota Faith Organizer Javen Swanson said.
“The people who want the amendment to pass use mostly faith-based arguments, but we know that there are lots of people of faith who are against the amendment,” Swanson said. “The public needs to know that people of faith aren’t all against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.”
On Nov. 8, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul hosted the first of such training programs, with 230 people of different faiths participating. They were led by Lutherans Concerned/North America, a Lutheran-based organization working toward GLBT rights within the Lutheran church, the program’s executive director, Emily Eastwood, said.
“It’s a grassroots effort to say that this amendment does not make sense for Minnesotans or Lutherans,” Eastwood said.
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, a Roman Catholic group that advocates marriage equality for all, also is working to rally people of faith against the amendment.
“The Catholic support of marriage equality is one of the highest of all religions,” Catholics for Marriage Equality MN Executive Coordinator Michael Bayly said.
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN recently released a series of video vignettes of couples and their outlooks on faith and marriage that premiered in September at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis and has been released online.
“If you look at what the Catholic people think, it’s very different from what the bishops are saying,” Bayly said.
Almost three-quarters of Catholics support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry — with 43 percent favoring outright marriage and 31 percent preferring civil unions, according to a Public Religion Research Institute report.
“Right now, Minnesota is poised to be the first state ever to defeat this constitutional amendment, but we can’t be complacent,” Swanson said. “If we won it, we would be very close, so we have our work cut out for us.”
Branden Largent is a student in the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Murphy News Service is a student-based journalism project at the university.