Minnesota Marriage Debate: Red Wing

5:01 PM, Oct 19, 2012   |    comments
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RED WING, Minn. -- Nearly 16,000 people live in Red Wing, a beautiful town bordered by bluffs and the Mississippi River with an unpredictable political history.

Although Republicans represent the city in both the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, Red Wing residents voted for President Obama in 2008. 

There's no question that in Red Wing not everyone is taking the position you'd expect on the marriage amendment.  In fact, you could say an undercurrent runs beneath the beauty of this river town.

The first surprise in Red Wing is Rep. Tim Kelly, who was one of four Republicans to oppose the marriage amendment in the Minnesota House.  Kelly, currently seeking his second term, continues to publicly denounce what he calls simple "discrimination."

"If I lost my election based on speaking out, I would be fine with that," he said.

In fact, Kelly argues amendment supporters are "on the wrong side of history," and are also going against conservative values.

"We espouse less government, less government, less government.  And now it seems that when we got to this particular social issue, we decided that more government was better," Kelly said.

If the idea of a Republican rallying against his party's position surprises you, try understanding how a 68-year-old Norwegian grandfather became one of Red Wing's biggest activists.

"When your family's touched, your priorities change in life," said Bruce Ause.

Ause's daughter, Angie, came out 18 years ago.  She and her partner, Cassidy, have a 3-year-old son, Harry.

"We were forced to make a choice. We had to choose between our church and our child, and we have no regrets," Ause said.

Ause's activism has brought him from marching in opposition to the amendment in local parades, to actually testifying against the amendment before state lawmakers in St. Paul. 

"We just want to be involved because it's the right thing to do.  We don't want our daughter and her family to be second-class citizens in the state of Minnesota," he said.

But to gauge how deeply the convictions and divisions run within Red Wing, you also need to hear from the man who most say has become the sole public voice speaking in support of the marriage amendment.

Dr. David Farrar has written letters to the local paper and engaged in a public dialogue to outline his support for traditional marriage.

"Our society will be stronger keeping marriage with its current definition between a man and a woman, and I think that is a lot healthier for kids to be in," Farrar said. 

Farrar has heard from those who don't agree with his position. He even believes he's lost patients as a result of his public statements, but he believes he's played a critical role in the discussion.

"I've been glad to at least get the debate out there," he said.

In fact, KARE 11 and MPR talked with Farrar at his home on a recent night, when he was also hosting his weekly study group, a group of friends who originally met at a local church.  The group engaged in a lively discussion about the amendment with some supporting Farrar and the amendment, and others stating their opposition to the ballot measure.

"Looking at what's happened in different states in the past, that's fearful to me.  Because I don't want what's happening in other states to happen in Minnesota," said Janie Farrar.

"I have a hard time justifying putting my faith into law and suppressing other people with that," said Bethany Borgschatz, who opposes the amendment.

And so it is over coffee, a Bible, and a rainbow that Red Wing residents ride an undercurrent of passion related to the marriage amendment. One that will continue until Nov. 6.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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