ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota’s top religious leaders are weighing in on the controversial Marriage Amendment and are urging a “yes” vote.
The constitutional amendment on the ballot in November asks voters to decide whether to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
About 40 clergy members launched the effort on the steps of the State Capitol.
Among them, the leader of Minnesota’s 1.1 million Catholics, who said religious leaders are united by “the Bible, and natural law.”
“This is a positive affirmation,” said Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. “Not intended to be hurtful or discriminatory to anyone. Our understanding of marriage between a man and a woman predates any government or, in fact, any religious denomination.”
Others, including Rev. Troy Dobbs of Grace Chuch in Eden Prairie, said granting legal marriage privileges to gays and lesbians amounts to granting “extra rights.”
“Extra rights to re-define something that has been defined biblically, historically and sociologically,” said Dobbs. “This is not marriage equality. This is marriage deconstruction.”
Longtime outspoken civil rights advocate Rev. Jerry McAfee called it “an insult” to compare to gay marriage to racial discrimination.
“While they certainly have their own rights,” said McAfee, President of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, “to equate it on the same level as a civil rights struggle that my people have gone through? It’s an insult to me.”
The leading group opposing the marriage amendment, Minnesotans United for All Families, said it had organized hundreds of clergy members and churches.
The group’s Faith Outreach leader said the amendment will impose government on to churches.
“We have churches right now who are marrying gay and lesbian people, who are celebrating the baptism of the children of gay and lesbian couples,” according to Rev. Grant Stevenson. “And yet this amendment in the constitution wants to say these are not real families according to the state of Minnesota.”
Archbishop Nienstedt declined to answer any questions beyond a written statement he read, and left immediately after the press conference.
Minnesota’s Catholic Churches have contributed half a million dollars to pass the marriage amendment, the single largest donation to the effort.
Meanwhile, the group opposing the marriage amendment started airing its first television ad Tuesday.
It features a suburban Savage, Minn. couple who said they are Republican and Catholic and who urged viewers to vote against the amendment.
“It’s OK to take a second look,” they say in the ad. “And when you do, vote no.”
Churches in Minnesota appear to be as divided as voters. Catholics and evangelicals, in general, appear to be in favor of it. But a number of Lutheran, Protestant and Jewish leaders are telling their congregations to vote against it, though there are differing opinions within each denomination.