Minnesota Marriage Debate: Grand Rapids

5:32 PM, Oct 18, 2012   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. --The first rainbow you see driving into Grand Rapids isn't for the marriage debate, it's for the Judy Garland Museum.

The singer and Hollywood star was a friend to the gay community, and her songs are still popular in drag shows around the country.

In Garland's hometown of 10,000 the gay population is small. The marriage debate is not.

Pastor Greg DeMuth says, "It's redefining  culture in society based on the needs of a small special interest group." He plans to vote yes in November.

Catholic and conservative Christian churches in Grand Rapids are leading the effort to pass the amendment.

Ron Niemala is a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church and believes Grand Rapids voters will back the amendment. "This area in many ways is very traditional."

St. Joe's parishioners showed their support by putting up yard signs, marching in a Labor Day parade in neighboring Bovey and they're praying.

Niemla says there's been an hour a week set aside in their chapel to deal with the defense of marriage and the amendment.

Across town at the First Evangelical Lutheran's Missouri Synod, congregants also believe the amendment upholds God's view of marriage as that of a man and a woman.

Craig Nelson plans to vote yes in November and says, "I myself am fearful that come November 7th, due to a small number of people who for whatever reason believe they're being disenfranchised, not treated fairly, we're going to wake up and we won't have the protection that the marriage amendment offers."

That view is familiar to Andy Mundt, a gay man raised Missouri Synod Lutheran who's now a field organizer for Minnesotans United for All Families.

"This is a very hurtful amendment for me as a gay man. I was in the hospital in a coma with my partner by my side and because we didn't have the freedom to marry he was forced to leave my side in the hospital," says Mundt.

Mundt wants to defeat the amendment and hopes to someday marry the person he loves. He runs weekly phone banks to persuade voters.

In yards, churches and in coffee shops like Brewed Awakenings neighbors are also divided by the amendment debate.

Peter Lavalier is voting yes. "As far as my opinion, I think it (marriage) is between a man and a woman."

But across the table, his friend disagrees. Jeff Miels counters by saying he'll vote no. "I believe if it's a gay or lesbian couple, they just want to have the same rights as heterosexual couples have, so people put too much emphasis on the religion part."

Despite all the opinions, in just a few short weeks the people of Grand Rapids will decide whether there's "no place like home" might someday include same sex marriages.

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