Archbishop John Nienstedt crusades against gay marriage

But increasingly, his flock of Minnesota Catholics isn't following

Thirty-one states have already passed similar anti-gay-marriage bills, with North Carolina the most recent in May. Thus far, every state that's had a measure banning same-sex marriage on its ballots has allowed it to pass.

However, a few aspects of the upcoming vote make Brickman and her colleagues optimistic that Minnesota could be the state that turns the tide. First, where most states have had but a few months to mobilize their forces, Minnesotans United will have had a year and a half to convince voters to strike down the amendment. Likewise, Minnesota's history of progressivism would seem to make passing the amendment an uphill battle. (It also helps that Minnesota's laws dictate that a non-vote on amendments equates to a no vote.)

"Gay marriage is certainly a non-issue for the younger generations, and it's becoming less of an issue for older folks," says Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), who has introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage every year since 2008. "No one voted on my marriage, so why should we vote on anyone else's?"

Archbishop John Nienstedt has gone to great lengths to try to pass Minnesota's anti-same-sex marriage amendment
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Archbishop John Nienstedt has gone to great lengths to try to pass Minnesota's anti-same-sex marriage amendment
Father Mike Tegeder is one of the few Minnesota priests to publicly oppose Nienstedt's stance on gay marriage
Mark N. Kartarik
Father Mike Tegeder is one of the few Minnesota priests to publicly oppose Nienstedt's stance on gay marriage

While Minnesotans United was forthright with its methods and beliefs, both MCC and Minnesota for Marriage refused to answer an assortment of questions pertaining to this story. Some of these questions entailed clarifying statistical mistruths splashed on Minnesota for Marriage's website. Chuck Darrell, Minnesota for Marriage's public relations director, would not explain why his organization claims that 56 percent of Minnesotans support the amendment, despite a Public Policy Polling poll conducted in early June showing only 43 percent of the state's population in favor of the amendment. (While there's been no statewide Catholic polling, a Gallup poll in early May found that, nationwide, 51 percent of Catholics favor legalizing same-sex marriage.)

Minnesota for Marriage also claims that American same-sex households have grown at only an 8 percent clip between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses — that is, at a lower rate than the rest of the national populace. But Minnesota for Marriage conflates non-revised and finalized Census numbers, eliding the fact that same-sex households, between 2000 and 2010, have actually grown at an 80 percent rate.

The numbers, misinformed and misleading, remain on the group's website. When asked to address the statistical fallacies, MCC claimed the line of questioning to be "incendiary" and that they had "no hope that assisting with this story will result in a just and accurate reporting of the facts."

Fortunately, a handful of videos on Minnesota for Marriage's website reveal the group's views. Speaking to a collection of elderly Catholics last October, Jason Adkins, the executive coordinator for Minnesota Catholic Conference and vice chairman for Minnesota for Marriage, spent 30 minutes discussing the church's stance.

"Marriage is under attack. It's under attack in the law, it's under attack in our courts, it's under attack in our culture," he says in the video. "We should recognize that it's not just marriage that's under attack, but civilization is really under attack."

Adkins claims that the church has made the "defense of marriage" a number-one priority.

"Love and commitment are necessary for a marriage, but love and commitment are not sufficient," Adkins says. "I'm in a loving and committed relationship with a lot of people, but I'm not married to all of them."

Specious logic aside, Adkins's main thrust rests on the wellbeing of children. He cites the government's favorable outlook on male-female marriage, and subsequent ability to have children, as a guarantor of its future. (He says nothing about barring the elderly, the infirm, or the infertile from marriage.)

But it's more than that, he explains. It's not simply that the Bible bars homosexual activity. Instead, the church's stance, and his own group's obduracy, is based in one eternal, intractable goal.

"This is why the Catholic Church is so hated in our society: because it dares to say 'No' to so many things," Adkins says. "We don't say 'No' for the sake of saying 'No.' We say 'No' so that people in the world can say 'Yes.' 'Yes' to Christ."

Minnesotans United's coalition has representatives from dozens of Christian denominations across the state. But even though Catholicism is the largest single Christian contingency in the United States, only two Catholic organizations have attached their names to the push for marriage equality.

Michael Bayly, a sandy-haired Australian, founded Catholics for Marriage Equality-Minnesota (C4ME-MN) two years ago in response to Nienstedt's DVD campaign, in the hopes of providing a platform within the church for voices opposing Nienstedt's anti-gay ideology.

"[Nienstedt has] this idea that the truth is already complete, that he's got it, that he's the keeper of it, and that you make sure your experiences match this truth," says Bayly. "Such hubris. It makes him and the system they've built into what I consider to be a clerical caste. And it's the antithesis of what Jesus was about."

Bayly's story is prototypically American: foreign national arriving in the U.S. to escape past privations. But Bayly's hardships in Australia weren't economic — they stemmed from a thicket of lies about his sexuality.

Coming out in America was his only option. Fortunately, as he opened up as a gay man, he latched onto the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, a small group tasked with aiding and integrating same-sex Catholics into the church.

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