Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

I spent a good part of last weekend staffing the Catholics for Marriage Equality MN booth at the Twin Cities' Gay Pride Festival in Minneapolis' Loring Park.

In the picture above, I'm at right with my friends (from left) Rick, David and Paul.

The festive mood of Pride this year was definitely heightened by the recent events in New York, a fact not lost on our local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Wrote Bob Von Sterberg in the June 25 issue of the paper:

The massive community festival that started out a generation ago as a gay rights protest returned to its roots Saturday, with new political purpose.

The 29th annual Pride Festival once again filled Loring Park just south of downtown Minneapolis to overflowing for the day. But new energy was in evidence – in support of Friday night's vote to allow gay marriage in New York and in opposition to a constitutional referendum that would bar marriage rights for gays in Minnesota.

"We're going to be the first state to defeat a marriage amendment – we're representatives of the larger Minnesota family," the crowd was told by Scott Dibble, the openly gay DFL state senator who represents the Loring Park neighborhood.

The ballot battle over the state constitutional amendment that would decree that marriage in Minnesota is solely between a man and a woman is expected to continue from now all the way to the 2012 elections.

Above: Along with offering information about Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPSCM), Dignity Twin Cities and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's upcoming 2011 Synod of the Baptized, those of us staffing "the Catholic booth" at Pride invited attendees of the festival to sign our Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage. This ongoing initiative is our way of helping defeat next November's anti-marriage equality ballot measure. The vast majority of folks who stopped by our booth expressed gratitude and support for us, and we gathered close to 400 signatures over the two days of Pride. (You can read and sign the Statement online, here!)

Above: These two Catholic high school students were as thrilled as could be to find our booth!

We attracted quite a number young people over the weekend – all of them happy and excited to find a Catholic presence at Pride. They were particularly interested in signing our Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage, and pleased to learn about past initiatives of CPCSM, such as the 2007 book I edited, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, and the DVD of Daniel Maguire's October 2010 Minneapolis talk, "Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage."

One young women's comment, which I overheard as she was leaving with her friends, really made my day: "That was my favorite booth so far"!

Above: My friends Paul, Mary Lynn and Paula. This photo was taken shortly after all three had participated in Sunday's Pride Parade Hen Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. They had carried the banner pictured behind them and were part of the Minnesotans United for All Families contingent of the parade.

Above: With Pete Boisclair of Minnesotans United for All Families.

Pete's holding the form I had just completed and signed making Catholics for Marriage Equality MN an official member of Minnesotans United for All Families!

For more about this coalition aimed at defeating Minnesota's November 2012 anti-marriage equality ballot measure, click

Above: Friends Kathleen Olsen (center) and Marie and John Braun.

Right: With my dear friend Joan.

Above: Friends Javen Swanson and Oby Ballinger.

Javen had the following letter-to-the-editor published in the June 8 issue of The Lake Country Echo and Pine River Journal.

Placing a ban on same-sex marriage in our state's constitution would be bad for families and wrong for Minnesota. The desire of any two people to enter into marriage is something to celebrate, not something to condemn.

I am a gay man who grew up in Pine River. My husband Oby is a United Church of Christ pastor, and I am preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We met as students at Yale Divinity School in Connecticut and discovered we have much in common. Both of us grew up in rural Minnesota, attended church-affiliated colleges in our home state, and sensed a call to ministry.

On May 22, 2009, we were married in the Divinity School chapel. Surrounded by friends and family, in the presence of God, we made sacred vows to love and honor one another in sickness and in health, when times are good and when things get tough. We made a public promise of responsibility for each other and asked our loved ones to support us and hold us accountable.

We married for the same reasons heterosexual couples marry, and we want what any married couple wants: The opportunity to live into the promises we have made, and the legal rights and protections that will allow our family to flourish. We may look different from other couples, but we share similar values. We believe in the importance of family and serving our community. We worry about making ends meet and finding time for one another. We dream of one day raising children, and we hope to grow old together.

Marriage is about love and commitment, faithfulness and accountability. We hope Minnesota will one day take our relationship as seriously as we do.

Above: With Donald McFarland, project manager for Minnesotans United for All Families.

Above and below: More images of Twin Cities Pride 2011, accompanied by excerpts from Bob Von Sterberg's June 25 Star Tribune article, "New York Energizes Pride '11."

. . . The Pride Festival, which has its roots in the earliest years of the gay rights movement, has become a mainstream event over the years, drawing corporate sponsors and sometimes taking on the feel of a county fair.

This year's event carried a renewed sense of urgency, with the decision late Friday by the New York state Senate to legalize same-sex marriage, doubling the number of Americans who can marry their partners regardless of gender, electrifying the rain-spattered crowd.

"We saw what happened in New York last night, so let's celebrate that," [Senator Scott] Dibble said.

Gearing Up for the Fight

Jeremy Hanson, a senior aide to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, went further. "We need a little more love for New York," he said. "I love New York!"

Referring to a recent survey on the nation's gay population by the Advocate, a gay/lesbian-oriented magazine, Hanson added: "This is the gayest city of the USA! This is the most lesbian city in the USA!"

As for the marriage battle, Hanson said, "Minnesotans are going to be talking about us. The opposition has never had to talk about the reality of our families ... This state will never be the same."

One way the state's not the same: Gov. Mark Dayton plans to take part today in the annual Pride Parade along Hennepin Avenue, the first Minnesota governor to do so. He also has officially declared June as Pride Month in Minnesota.

. . . Unlike previous Pride Festivals, on Saturday, opponents of gay rights were virtually invisible. [For an image of last year's opponents, click here.] But politics pervaded several of the tented booths that ringed the park.

. . . The gaping political divide that Minnesotans will grapple with over the next 16 months was symbolically bookended Saturday at the two churches that border Loring Park. On the south side, St. Mark's Cathedral, a parish of the Episcopal Church that has partly embraced same-sex marriages, flew a phalanx of rainbow banners commemorating the festival. On the north side, the bells merely tolled every 15 minutes at the Basilica of St. Mary, a cornerstone of a Catholic archdiocese, which has campaigned aggressively against the practice. [Ironically, the Basilica of St. Mary is generally regarded by many Twin Cities Catholics as "gay-friendly"!]

In the middle, in front of a row of rainbow banners, stood Donna Bailey and Tamra Doble. They'd driven from the home they've shared for more than a year in Albertville to have their relationship blessed in a civil commitment ceremony by the Rev. Greg Renstrom.

Before officiating, he explained, "it's important to show God's grace, which means to love everybody -- period. We need to extend God's blessings to all people."

Before Bailey and Doble exchanged rings, Renstrom spoke of their "relationship to be honored and blessed" and asked them, "Will you build your life together?"

Yes, they answered.

Afterward, wiping away tears, Doble explained, "It's our commitment to each other. For now, it's the closest thing we can get to being married."

– Bob Von Sterberg
"New York Energizes Pride '11"
Star Tribune
June 25, 2011

Above: The "wild reeds" behind our Catholics for Marriage Equality MN booth! How appropriate!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2010)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2009)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
Inclusive Catholics Celebrate Gay Pride (2007)
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2011


bobfett11 said...

Thank for a great article and wonderful pictures.

bobfett11 said...

I just read part of that piece by the Canadian bishops. It is somewhat confusing to me. I would think it would be confusing to gay teens. They seem to be contradictory in some of the things that they are saying. Is it just me or is it somewhat insulting to continuously refer to gay people as "same sex attracted?" To me this tends to objectify people. Plus in my opinion most people have attractions in varying degrees to people of both sexes. I also find the term "disordered" to be labeling a person as defective. The bishops say that it isn't but it is. Some of what they say is positive but they rely too much on negative statements from church documents.
Peace - Mark

Michael J. Bayly said...

Great observations and remarks, Mark. I agree with everything you said.

And thanks, Joe, for your incisive and insightful critique of the Canadian bishops' document. I made part of this critique my "Quote of the Day" for July 2!