MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group representing 80 former Catholic priests from throughout the state of Minnesota gathered at the Lake Harriet band stand this morning to encourage a no vote on the marriage initiative for the Minnesota Constitution.

With a calm, yet windswept Lake Harriet as a backdrop, three former priests faced reporters to say that they believe the amendment and the church’s stand on gay marriage violates the principles of justice and love.

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The amendment would legally define marriage as the union between a man and woman.

“The proposed amendment changes nothing in Minnesota law, rather it enshrines exclusion, discrimination and separation,” said former Minneapolis pastor John Estrem.

Estrem and the others recounted their ongoing friendships with gay couples and their united belief that those unions in no way poised a threat to their traditional unions. In fact, Ed Flahavan, a former priest from St. Paul said quite the opposite was true and his associations with this same sex couples “helped him become an ex-homophobe.”

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Flahavan is however upset with the church’s priorities.

“I was outraged to learn that the archdiocese spent $650,000 last year in 2011 to promote this divisive initiative, while its own Catholic Charities are being forced to curtail their good and necessary work,” said Flahavan.

St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese spokesperson Dennis McGrath disputed the claim that Catholic Charities donations had been cut. He said the amount of donations had increased in 2011.

McGrath also said that the $650,000 spent to promote the initiative came from money accrued through interest from the Archdiocese’s holdings, not from donations.

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The amendment initiative to define marriage as the traditional bond between a man and a woman will be on the November ballot in Minnesota.