By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press
Six women -- lawmakers, moms, a pastor, a teacher -- sat down at a Mankato church Wednesday to speak up about their opposition to the marriage amendment on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
State Sen. Kathy Sheran, a Mankato Democrat and daughter of a state Supreme Court chief justice, focused on civil rights and freedoms.
"This is a constitutional amendment we're talking about here, changing the essential document of the state," Sheran said.
Neither defeat nor passage of the amendment -- which would buttress the existing state law banning gay marriage -- would immediately change the status quo in Minnesota. Amendment supporters say it needs to pass to prevent courts from overturning the state law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to heterosexual couples.
But Sheran said even if the amendment is not adopted and even if the Defense of Marriage Act is eventually overturned, churches would still have to the right to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples. The state, however, could choose to recognize same-sex marriages performed in civil ceremonies or in churches that agree to conduct those marriage ceremonies.
"I'll defend the right of the church to do within the church what they want to do," said Sheran, who was raised in a Catholic family and educated in Catholic schools. "... I do not support the extension of that to the lives of individuals (outside that church) or the rights of other groups."
Former state Rep. Ruth Johnson, DFL-St. Peter, said gay couples should have the same access to the rights and responsibilities of state-recognized marriage that other couples have.
"Gay and lesbian couples are like everybody else," Johnson said. "They want to marry for the same reason as everybody else: To make a lifetime commitment to someone they love."
Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, spoke of her 44-year-marriage to Tony Filipovitch, the three daughters and grandson that resulted, and "all the trials, tribulations, joys and wonders" that followed.
"Remember the love and blessings that are the foundation of your family," Brynaert said. "Remember the hopes and dreams you've had for your own families and children. Please do not close those hopes and dreams off from others. Look to your hearts. Vote "No."
Sara Grandberg-Rademacker said she compares her marriage to the decades-long relationship of her aunt and her aunt's female partner. Both relationships are based in love and commitment, both couples shared those ideals while raising two sons, but only one relationship is recognized by the state, she said.
Paulette Ford spoke of her gay son and his partner, both well-educated, hard-working, taxpaying Minnesotans who give back to their community and display the values the state should honor.
And Pastor Collette Broady Preiss said she was working to persuade people to vote "No" on behalf of Ian, her "best friend" from childhood on, her son's godfather and a fellow minister who is gay.
"Among the congregations I serve, there are many who disagree with me on those issues," said Broady Preiss, who believes Minnesotans should be free to interpret the Bible as excluding gay marriage. "... But that doesn't belong in state law."
The event was organized by Minnesotans United for All Families, the main organization working to defeat the amendment.
Minnesotans for Marriage, the largest organization pushing for passage of the amendment, isn't planning a similar "Vote Yes" media event in Mankato prior to the Nov. 6 general election, said spokesman Chuck Darrell.
"Our efforts are focused right now on getting out the vote and our phone-banking," Darrell said. "And of course, we're working through churches as well."
Darrell said the primary message is that government's traditional interest in marriage is promoting stable families for children to grow up in, that traditional marriage is under attack in the courts, and the amendment is a way to fend off those attacks.
"The marriage amendment simply allows the people to weigh in and protect it in the state constitution," he said.