Catholics, vets launch efforts for and against Minnesota marriage amendmentMinnesota military veterans and family members are fighting a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, while the state’s Roman Catholic bishops are urging churchgoers to donate money for TV ads in support of the amendment.
By: Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau
Minnesota military veterans and family members are fighting a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, while the state’s Roman Catholic bishops are urging churchgoers to donate money for TV ads in support of the amendment.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference said letters would start arriving later this week in more than 400,000 Catholic households. The letter urges passage of the amendment, but also says supporters need financial resources to get their message on the air.
“We ask that you prayerfully consider making a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage of whatever amount is right for you and your family. No amount is too small,” the letter reads. Minnesota for Marriage is the chief group pushing for the amendment, and has been closely allied with leaders in the state's Catholic hierarchy. The “vote yes” campaign said Tuesday it will begin to buy billboards as one way to get out its message.
The state's Catholic dioceses have already been the largest contributor to the group, but this is the first direct plea for donations.
Minnesotans United For All Families meanwhile organized a series of events Tuesday allowing veterans to speak out against the ballot proposal, including a handful at Duluth’s Civic Center Plaza in the afternoon. Veteran Fred Peterson talked about the telephone calls he and his wife have received since the Duluth couple was featured in a “Vote No” ad earlier this month.
Peterson said all of the messages have been positive since the ad aired, showing the couple taking a walk and talking about everyone having the right to marry.
“Everyone is deserving the same love and commitment Yvonne and I have shared for more than 50 years,” he said Tuesday.
Peterson said even the couple’s former babysitter called to say she was voting no. That’s impressive, he said, considering the children she watched are over age 50 now. The ad touched people, he said.
Earlier in the day in St. Paul, Lori and Jeff Wilfahrt of Rosemount, whose gay son died in Iraq last year, joined Tuesday in announcing the formation of the initiative, called Veterans United.
“He died for the men and women who were on the road that day and he died for the Constitution,” Wilfahrt said of his son, Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt.
This fall, he added, Minnesotans can defend the state constitution “with an ink pen.”
When their son joined the military, Lori Wilfahrt said, “he knew he would have to hide part of who he was. He enlisted anyway.”
John Pegg serves on the Duluth board for Minnesotans United and is also a Marine Corps veteran pushing the “Vote No” message.
“We stand with more than 100 veterans who served their country and are now standing united in opposition to this amendment,” Pegg said “All of us who served in the military did so to protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens. This amendment would take freedoms away from some Minnesotans.”
Iraq war veteran Daniel Fanning stood with the Duluth Veterans Tuesday.
“The constitution should be used to give people rights,” he said, not take them away.
Laws are on the books at the Minnesota and federal levels that ban gay marriages. Supporters of the proposed amendment say that placing the language in the state constitution is less likely to be overturned in court.
States across the country have passed laws or constitutional amendments in recent years banning gay marriages. Gay marriages are legal in six states.
Minnesota voters will decide the constitutional amendment issue at the Nov. 6 election.