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Vote no – don’t take away basic freedoms for all

October 30, 2012
By Pastor Grant Stevensen - Faith Director for Minnesotans United for All Families and pastor at St. Matthew’s Spirit of Truth Lutheran Church, St. Paul , The Journal

Minnesota is such a great place to call home because we are a state that embraces and values our differences. As a Pastor, I have the unique opportunity to meet my congregation where they are and help prepare them for the week to come each Sunday. This week, Minnesotans are preparing for one the most important elections in a long time. Not only will we be electing America's next President and voting on our local legislators, but we'll also be voting on the so-called "marriage amendment" - the hot button issue that has certainly attracted an incredible amount of attention and debate. In true Minnesota fashion, the debate has been overwhelmingly positive and respectful. I'm proud of that - and I'm also proud to be voting NO on the marriage amendment. It is because of my faith, not in spite of it, that I have come to this conclusion.

I've prepared hundreds of couples for marriage through my life. When a couple first approaches me about their intention to marry, it is my sincerest hope that I can help them deepen their love, understand the commitment they must make, and the responsibility that comes with marriage. These three values - love, commitment, and responsibility - are at the foundation of all healthy marriages. And it is exactly for these same reasons that gay and lesbian couples in Minnesota seek to join marriage. We are all made in the image and likeness of God, and in turn are called to treat others how we would want to be treated. Passing this amendment would single out one group of people from the freedom to marry simply because of who God made them.

As a faith leader I know that there are people of good faith on both sides of this issue. Some churches, like the one I serve, desire to someday be able to marry gays and lesbians - others, like the Catholic Church, do not. This amendment, however, would dictate to all churches who they can and cannot marry in their congregation, unnecessarily mixing religion and politics in our constitution. That is not how we do things here in Minnesota. A no vote ensures that we don't judge other people's religion, and that we don't tell churches what they can and can't do. All churches should have the freedom to practice their religion as they see fit. And no church - including the Catholic Church - would ever be forced to perform a wedding they don't see in keeping with their beliefs. The truth is that interpretations of scripture vary across religious traditions. However, I think we can all agree that this amendment writes one single religious view into the state constitution and places it above all others. Doing so would violate our deeply held belief as Minnesotans and Americans that we all deserve the basic freedoms of speech and religion, free from government interference.

There is no doubt that marriage as an institution positively benefits society as a whole. We all care about children and want what is best for them - which is yet another reason that I oppose this amendment. Marriage strengthens families and strong families raise healthy and productive children. Twenty-five years of academic research and social science shows that children are best raised by loving and committed parents, period. Thousands of gay and lesbian Minnesotans are already raising happy, healthy children - and a no vote ensures that we don't limit the freedom of these families and permanently classify them as less deserving or valued than other families.

Ultimately, this is an issue of freedom. This amendment puts a government limitation on Minnesotan's individual and religious freedoms. In our country, freedom means freedom for everybody. The role of the constitution is to protect freedoms, not take them away - which is why Democrats, Republican, Independents and Greens are working together, like never before, to defeat this amendment. As Americans, we all know how important it is to protect freedom - even for those whom we might sometimes disagree with. A government one-size-fits-all mandate on the definition of marriage is a clear limitation on our freedoms, and it has no place in our state's constitution.

In the closing days of this election cycle, I urge you to take the time to step back from all the ads and take time to connect with your neighbors and community. Our core values of love, commitment, freedom, faith and family are what will ultimately make us the best and strongest Minnesota we can be.

Fact Box

The issue: Minnesota's Marriage Amendment

As part of its election coverage, The Journal has asked representatives of groups supporting and those opposing Minnesota's two constitutional amendments to present their arguments for and against the issue. Today, Chuck Darrell of Minnesota for Marriage and Pastor Steven Grant of Minnesotans United for All Families, present the pros and cons on Minnesota's Marriage Amendment.

A No vote keeps Minnesota the welcoming state that I know it has always been and protect all Minnesotans, all families and all freedoms. On Nov. 6 stand on the side of love and freedom - Vote No!



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