Reaction to marriage bill divided, muted locally

BY ERIK SANDIN AND AVERY CROPP

As Minnesota became the 12th state in the U.S. to legally allow same-sex couples to marry with Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature on the legislation, local reaction was muted, but divided.

Local same-sex marriage supporters praised the measure passed by the Minnesota House late last week and the state Senate Monday as giving same-sex couples the same ability to celebrate their commitments in marriage as heterosexual couples do.

“Personally, I was delighted with the passage,” said the Rev. Lanny Kuester of People’s Congregational Church in Bayport. “I know so many dozens of people who are LGBT folks who are in a committed relationship and want to do so (marry).”

“We are so happy for all the same-sex couples who have been in committed relationships and now have the ability to celebrate those commitments as the marriages they are,” said the Rev. Buff Grace of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Stillwater. “A life-long commitment to another person is the most adventurous and loving action most of us ever take in our lives. We all need the support of a faith and a caring community to live out our vows of marriage.”

But area opponents of same-sex marriages decried the bill’s passage.

“I’m disappointed in its (the legislature’s) decision,” said the Rev. Michael Miller of the Church of St. Michael’s. “I firmly believe in traditional marriage. It’s rooted in creation.”

“The passage of gay marriage in Minnesota deeply saddens me,” added the Rev. Shad Vork, pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Governments have a God-given responsibility to do what is right. Instead our state government has chosen to condone what the Bible clearly calls evil.”

Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, voted against the same-sex marriage bill Monday and was critical of how the measure was handled by the DFL-controlled Senate.

“I was thinking, ‘Holey moley, this is not vetted’,” she said about the bill. “I didn’t think it was coming. I know people in our district didn’t think it was coming and we didn’t know that this was the agenda for same-sex marriage going forward. Not a lot of people in our district thought it was happening and while I was sitting there, I was thinking, ‘This is really going on’.”

Lake Elmo businesswoman Debbie Krueger, a member of the St. Croix Valley Coalition on Human Rights, said she was thrilled by the legislature’s approval of the same-sex marriage bill.

“We just see it as a form of discrimination,” she said about opposition to same-sex marriage. “That’s the way I feel. It’s a human rights issue. As straight people, it’s hard to understand all the discrimination in the gay and lesbian world,”

Miller, however, questioned if same-sex marriage falls under the civil rights umbrella.

“We have respect for all people and civil rights,” he said. “We question whether it’s a civil right.”

Reaction was also mixed regarding how quickly same-sex marriage legislation  worked its way through the state House and Senate.

“As it turned out, the groups and coalitions during the amendment process had really organized and had a full head of steam going forward. It seemed to turn a corner pretty quickly. I didn’t expect it to go through this year, but I am pleasantly surprised it gained support and did,” Kuester said.

“I’m still thrilled at the outcome. It was inevitable,” Krueger said.

In November, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman. Washington County voters rejected the amendment with 77,108 voting no and 63,767 yes, according to results posted on the county Department of Property Records and Taxpayer Services web site.

Miller questioned if voter rejection of the proposed marriage amendment indicated wide-spread support for same-sex marriage.

“I think failure of the amendment didn’t mean approval (of same-sex marriage),” he said. “I think a lot of people didn’t want to change the constitution.”
Housley expressed her frustration with the lack of time senators were given to study the measure.

“I was very public about being undecided throughout this process and I listened to as many people that wanted to talk to me,” she said. “In the end, I was extremely frustrated. I always thought, ‘When it comes in front of me, I’ll decide then. I’ll sit down and take a good look at it and make my decision’.”

Housley said she has several concerns about the bill Dayton signed.

“For me, personally, I don’t know if our churches were protected. What will be the education platforms that will be taught?” she said. “I had a lot of unanswered questions. I knew it was going to pass. We all knew it was going to pass. But I really feel like we’re being bullied, so I’m going to voice my opposition to the process of the bill.

“It’s such a divisive issue, from state to families,” she added. “I wanted to listen to the people of the district, and I believe those families deserve equal protection, but I needed more time with the bill.”

With same-sex marriage soon permitted under state law, Kuester and Grace expect same-sex couples to schedule weddings at their churches.

“I’m expecting we’ll probably have those requests coming up,” Kuester said.
The Rev. Rich Larson, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bayport, said his congregation is evenly split on the issue of same-sex marriage and he would consult with church leaders if a same-sex couple requested being married at Bethlehem LC.
“I’m not anticipating anything. It could very possibly happen,” he said about a marriage request from a same-sex couple. “I would handle it in consultation with my leadership as to how we would respond.”

Miller and Vork, meanwhile, believe the same-sex marriage issue could lead people to seek spiritual direction.

“Nevertheless, no matter how dark our state becomes, I am confident that the good news of Jesus Christ can transform lives from the darkness of sin into the holy light of the God who created us,” Vork said.

“Hopefully, we can seek God’s will in all of this and live the way he wants us to live,” Miller said.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com. Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com.

  • Ja Stoddart

    Rev. Shad Vork you have the right to your beliefs, but you have no right to determine what is evil to the rest of us. Christians have to understand they are not the only view that counts.

  • Randy Marsh

    So let me get this straight, Housley voted yes and supported the marriage amendment last fall and claims she was undecided on the SSM legislation? You can’t have it both ways, senator. I think once you support putting in the state constitution a restriction on SSM you can’t claim to be undecided on the issue. I’d have more respect for this woman if she at least took a stand instead of playing to both sides of the aisle and then falling in line with her party like the puppet that she is.

  • Paul

    Everyone has been so programmed to think that this law is only about people of the same sex now having the right to get married. Personally, I’m not all that opposed to people of the same sex getting married. These people need to deal with God on that issue. HOWEVER, please look at the big picture and the consequences of this law. You will no longer be able to express your opinion on this subject without being accused of discriminiating, breaking the law, having a lawsuit filed against you and possibly all three. This is the real discrimination that is about to take place. In other states where this law has passed, people have been told, ‘shut up, it’s the law’. Your freedoms are being taken away in favor of a small minority having the right to do what they want to do. This is a sad documentary on our state and this country. Unfortunately, it is our leaders, Dayton and Obama who are taking us down this dreadful road.

    • Fred

      Paul’s logic of “my not being able to discriminate against you is discrimination against me.” What kind of crazy logic is that?

  • Randy Marsh

    So Paul wants photographers and florists to discriminate against gays who want to get married much like restaurants did not serve blacks for forced them to the back of the bus. Wow, really impressive bigotry there. Please realize that people do not choose to be gay, much in the same way they do not choose their skin color. Your fear mongering is not based on facts. For anyone who wants to avoid litigation, I suggest you simply respect the civil rights of others.

  • Ja Stoddart

    Paul’s “not all that opposed” then implies his views by saying that God will deal with it. Then goes on to claim that the law is wrong because it gags bigotry.

  • Kevin Meyer

    God will deal with it. Just like he will deal with all of the other sins we have committed in our lifetime.

  • Steve Johnson

    God will also deal with those that hate or descriminate. Enjoy that conversation at the pearly gates.

  • maser

    God does discriminate from what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. While it is important to ‘Respect everyone.’ (1 Peter 2:17) whether you agree with their live style or not, it is another thing to call yourself a “Christian” and especially a “Christian Leader” and make statements that the Apostle Paul warned us about…At 1 Corinthians 6:9 Paul states in very clear terms: “What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.”

    Then Paul also warns true followers of Christ Jesus to be on the look out for false Christians stating at Romans 1:26 -32 “That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites,+ for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature;+ 27 and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female+ and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males,+ working what is obscene*+ and receiving in themselves the full recompense,+ which was due for their error.+And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge,+ God gave them up to a disapproved mental state,+ to do the things not fitting,+ 29 filled as they were with all unrighteousness,+ wickedness,+ covetousness,+ badness,+ being full of envy,+ murder,+ strife,+ deceit,+ malicious disposition,+ being whisperers,+ 30 backbiters,+ haters of God, insolent,+ haughty,+ self-assuming,+ inventors of injurious things,+ disobedient to parents,+ 31 without understanding,+ false to agreements,*+ having no natural affection,+ merciless.+ 32 Although these know full well the righteous decree of God,+ that those practicing such things are deserving of death,+ they not only keep on doing them but also consent+ with those practicing them.

    So, my question is “Why is it that we have to listen to everyone’s spin on what is proper and righteous, especially when they well know the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death (meaning no future life) and not life (everlasting life)? These things are all set forth in the scriptures by God. It is amazing that the clear and unambiguous statements in the Scriptures make it clear that God does not tolerate this behavior and that a person, to be acceptable by God my repent and stop this unclean life style.

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