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Published September 25 2012

Minn. Catholic bishops seek gay marriage fight donors

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops are urging churchgoers to donate money for TV ads in support of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while critics of the proposed ban on Tuesday recruited a group of veterans and their families to argue against its passage.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference said the letter would start arriving later this week in more than 400,000 Catholic households. It urges passage of the amendment but also says supporters need financial resources to get their message on the air.

“We ask that you prayerfully consider making a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage of whatever amount is right for you and your family. No amount is too small,” the letter reads. Minnesota for Marriage is the chief group pushing for the amendment, and has been closely allied with leaders in the state’s Catholic hierarchy.

The state’s Catholic dioceses have already been the largest contributor to the group, but this is the first direct plea for donations. But there is visible dissent among the state’s Catholics – a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality has handed out more than 1,000 yard signs that read, “Another Catholic voting no.”

The amendment, if passed, would toughen an existing state law banning gay marriage by inserting it in the constitution, making it more difficult for a court to overturn it. Minnesota for Marriage also announced Tuesday it would be placing several dozen billboards around the state.

Critics of the amendment say it’s mean-spirited and unnecessary since gay marriage is already illegal. Minnesotans United for All Families, the leading group in opposition, kicked off its veterans’ campaign Tuesday with a Capitol news conference featuring the parents of a gay Minnesota soldier who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt of Rosemount said their son, Andrew, enlisted even though he knew he’d have to hide his sexuality, because of his strong sense of patriotism. President Barack Obama announced in July 2011 that he would overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in July 2011, and it formally ended on Sept. 20, 2011.

“He died to protect rights that he didn’t have himself,” Lori Wilfahrt said. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a National Guard veteran, also spoke against the amendment. Walz, a Democrat, has publicly supported gay marriage rights since his first campaign in 2006.