Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

The 40th annual Twin Cities Pride Festival was held in Minneapolis' Loring Park on the weekend of June 23-24. Twin Cities Pride is one of the biggest Gay Pride events in the country, with hundreds of thousands of attendees and 500+ exhibitors. This year Catholics for Marriage Equality MN shared a double booth space with Dignity Twin Cities, and those who helped staff both booths reported receiving words of affirmation, encouragement and gratitude from countless festival attendees. Without doubt, people appreciate a Catholic presence at Pride.

Left: With my good friend Phil at this year's Twin Cities Pride. Phil recently contributed a great piece to The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series. To read it, click here.

Our key message this year was that one can indeed be Catholic and vote 'no' on November 6's proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban civil marriage rights to same-sex couples by limiting these rights to opposite-sex couples.

Following are the three main reasons why Catholics can vote ‘no’ on the ‘marriage amendment.’

1. The Primacy of Conscience

Our Catholic tradition teaches us that conscience is the highest norm, and that we are to follow our conscience, even in opposition to official church authority. In good conscience, many Catholics have pledged to vote ‘no’ on the ‘marriage amendment.’ They have done so because they have yet to hear a convincing reason why such an amendment to our state constitution is needed.

2. The Golden Rule

We would not want another religion using the constitution to impose its views on everyone. Yet for many, that’s exactly what the bishops are doing in actively supporting the ‘marriage amendment.’ Our church teaches, however, that “equality of citizens before the law” should never be violated for religious reasons. As Catholics we want to live by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

3. “Be Not Afraid”

In their support of the ‘marriage amendment,’ the bishops have provoked false fears. They warn, for instance, that if civil marriage rights are extended to same-sex couples, churches will be sued if they refuse to perform sacramental marriage for a gay couple. This is untrue. Even if the ‘marriage amendment’ is defeated in November, same-sex civil marriage would still be illegal in Minnesota. And if civil marriage rights were one day extended to same-sex couples, our nation’s separation of church and state would guarantee that churches would always have the freedom to choose who they marry.

Above: Steve and Cathie Wilson did a great job in overseeing the smooth running of the C4ME-MN booth throughout the duration of Pride. Plus they created the beautiful display they're pictured standing next to.

Above: As well as encouraging Catholics to vote 'no' on the freedom limiting 'marriage amendment,' we also gathered signatures for our 'Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality.' We displayed a map of Minnesota divided into the state's dioceses and listed those Catholics from across the state who have already signed the statement. We gathered close to 1,000 new signees at this year's Pride festival.

To sign the statement online, click here.

Above: We also offered folks C4ME-MN buttons and bumper stickers with the message, "Another Catholic Voting No."

For information about obtaining one of these buttons or bumper stickers, click here.

Above and below: Throughout the two days of Pride we had a fantastic team of volunteers. They tirelessly greeted visitors, answered questions about the 'marriage amendment,' and collected signatures for the 'Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality.' Thank you to all our volunteers!

Above: C4ME-MN volunteers Cathie and Steve Wilson and Kelly Doss.

Above: Sean Simonson and his parents. Sean is the former Benilde-St. Margaret student whose 2010 article in his school's newspaper about being gay in a Catholic high school was censored. To read more about this incident, click here.

Above: Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden, who feature in C4ME-MN produced DVD Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Above: With Darlene and Tom White, who also feature in Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Above: Preparing to march in Sunday's parade.

Above: Fellow C4ME-MN board members Jim Smith and Kathleen Olsen.

Above: The good folks of Dignity Twin Cities.

Above and below: Signs of the times.

Above: The parade gets underway!

Above: Longtime CPCSM member and gay Catholic activist Paul Fleege.

Above and below: The rapturous reception we received from the thousands who lined Minneapolis' Hennepin Ave. was tremendously affirming.

Above: My friends Phil and Kathleen!

Above: Cathie and Steve: Catholic, straight, pro-marriage equality!

Above: Jim and Neil.

Above: What a friend we have indeed!

Following are additional photos from Twin Cities Pride 2012,
accompanied by excerpts from KARE 11's June 23 news story about
this year's Pride festival and parade. Enjoy!

Gay Pride Festival Turns 40

By Allen Costantini
Kare 11 News
June 23, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS - Tents sprouted like mushrooms around the pond in Loring Park as preparations began for the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival.

The 2-day festival is celebrating its 40th year, having grown to become the 3rd largest pride event in the nation.

"The Twin Cities Pride Festival, each year, draws more than 350,000 people from all across the state," said Kate Brickman, spokesperson for Minnesota United for All Families.

Her group is a main opponent of the amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Same sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, but the amendment would place the ban in the state's founding document.

"The people who attend the festival are really those who are going to be most hurt by the proposed amendment," added Brickman. "We will have hundreds of volunteers working with our staff as well as the Minnesota and local leaders who will be canvassing the people at Pride for donations, to get them to pledge to vote no, to get them to sign up to volunteer, to really get them involved in any way that they are interested in."

. . . The highlight of the Twin Cities Pride Festival has become the parade on Hennepin Avenue, which is now the largest parade in Minnesota. The line of march steps off at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

"Last year, we had a few brave service people who came out in the parade," said Dot Bessler, CEO of Twin Cities Pride.

The repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military has changed the feelings of many in uniform. Even the Pentagon took note of Gay Pride Month in 2012.

"This year, I think, we are having quite a few service members in the parade," said Bessler. "You know, Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt, who lost their son, Andrew, an openly gay soldier, last year, have been really involved in the cause since their son passed away."

Bessler said many service members will march in Wilfahrt's honor.

However, Bessler said the big draw this year is the gay marriage controversy.

"We are expecting a lot more people to come because of the marriage amendment," said Bessler.

Indeed, I think that here in Minnesota, this issue has galvanized people, including Catholics, in ways that those who back the amendment were simply not anticipating. We've certainly seen an increase in the number of Catholics contacting us and wanting to be part of CPCSM's Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative. Because of Archbishop Nienstedt's activism on this issue, more and more so called "ordinary" Catholics are willing to stand up and be counted among those who oppose the amendment, even if they're not totally comfortable with same-sex marriage. Accordingly, I'm optimistic that the "marriage amendment" will be defeated on November 6.

Above: Well, hello! Look what seemingly emerged
from the wild reeds of Loring Park!

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics in St. Joseph, MN Share Thoughts on Marriage EqualitySensus Fidelium (July 7, 2012).
Why Catholics Can Vote 'No' – Bob Pierson, OSB (Sensus Fidelium, June 11, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Big Gay 'Yay' for the Catholics!
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the "Marriage Amendment"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2011
Sharing the Good News of Marriage Equality at the Basilica Block Party
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2010
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2009
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2008
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Inclusive Catholics Celebrate Gay Pride (2007)
In Minnesota, Catholics Sing Their Support for Marriage Equality
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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