Both sides of marriage amendment issue working to get out vote in 2012

With the vote on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment now less than a year away, supporting and opposing organizations are busy rallying people of faith to hit the polls in next November’s election.

The marriage amendment, if passed, would define marriage as between one man and one woman in the Minnesota’s state constitution.

Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of faith leaders from the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Catholic Conference, National Organization for Marriage, and other organizations are working to identify voters and 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 reach people of faith to get out and 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 are also 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 are also reaching out to people of faith throughout the state.

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 Robins said.

The faith organizers are looking to host training programs throughout the state 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, the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul marked the first of such faith-based training programs, with 230 people of different faiths participating in the story-telling training program, which was 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 people of all sexual orientations, is also working to rally people of faith against the amendment.

“The Catholic support of marriage equality is one of the highest of all religions, and even the general public,” Catholics for Marriage Equality MN Executive Coordinator Michael Bayly said.

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN has recently released a series of video vignettes of couples and their outlooks on faith and marriage that premiered at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis in September and has also been released online.

“If you look at what the Catholic Church people think, it’s very different from what the bishops are saying,” Bayly said.

Almost three-quarters of Catholics support either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry — with 43 percent favoring outright marriage and 31 percent preferring the formation of 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 journalism student at the University of Minnesota.