Edina’s welcomed Catholics from across the state on Sunday afternoon, opening its doors for a kick-off event meant to rally Catholics who are opposed to the 2012 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Organized by the group Catholics Vote No, which is working in partnership with Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the ballot measure, several hundred people gathered at the church to listen to civic and religious leaders discuss actions Catholics could take to help defeat the amendment.
Featured speakers at the gathering included state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) and the Rev. Bob Pierson of St. John’s Abbey Church, both of whom talked about the reasons Catholics should feel justified voting no in November. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which is the governing Catholic body in the metro area, supports passage of the marriage amendment and is encouraging Catholics to vote accordingly.
“A lot of statements have come from the archdiocese to the contrary, but we were raised as Catholics with a sense of social conscience to stand up for those who are struggling—for full rights, for equality, for recognition,” Dibble said.
Catholics Vote No acknowledged that the issue is a divisive one for many Catholics. Part of the organization’s campaign over the coming months will focus on getting Catholics in conversation with one another, with the hope that church members’ personal stories—about why marriage matters, and how banning same-sex marriage would negatively affect committed gay and lesbian couples they know—will prove effective in persuading other Catholics to vote against the amendment.
A 28-year veteran pastor in the church, before addressing the crowd Pierson acknowledged that while his presence at the rally might upset church leaders, many Catholics he knew welcomed his support.
“I suspect there will be a lot of other members of the church who are glad that this event is taking place,” Pierson said. “I think it’s possible for Catholics to vote no against the amendment, and we haven’t heard that message very strongly yet.”
In what was his first appearance at an event to defeat the marriage amendment, Pierson said that if church leaders asked him not to address the marriage amendment publicly again, he would respect those wishes.
“It’s not my place to tell the church what to teach, I just want to remind the church that we also teach that people have a freedom of conscience,” he said.
Rose McMurray, a lifelong Catholic whose son is gay, was present at Sunday’s rally and plans to vote against the amendment. She said that exercise of her own social conscience trumped any doctrinal position staked out by the archdiocese, and has been working with Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the ballot measure since it was approved by the state Legislature last May.
“We feel it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “You can be Catholic and still be against this amendment.”