A large crowd filled the state Capitol rotunda and hallways on three floors, for what organizers billed as a "People of Faith Rally." Religion has always been a driving force in the marriage debate, especially among those who favor a ban on same-sex unions.
But the Rev. Doug Donley of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis says he sees a lot prejudice hidden by a religious facade.
Prejudice is un-Christian, injustice is un-Christian, intolerance is un-Christian, exclusion is un-Christian. This constitutional amendment is un-Christian.Rev. Doug Donley
"Prejudice is un-Christian, injustice is un-Christian, intolerance is un-Christian, exclusion is un-Christian. This constitutional amendment is un-Christian," Donley said to loud applause. The rally included Christian, Jewish and Muslims speakers who stressed that there are many religious people who oppose the constitutional amendment.
Religious leaders on the pro-amendment side have described gay marriage as a violation of biblical law and a threat to the traditional family. The Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church says the amendment would do nothing to protect marriages or families.
"The time and energy spent, wasted, pushing this amendment forward would be better spent addressing the issues that are genuine threats to families in our society and in our state -- unemployment, homelessness, poor access to health care," said Budde.
One of the key proponents of the marriage amendment says she welcomes the diversity of religious opinions being heard at the Capitol. Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, has been fighting to convince the DFL majority to allow a floor vote on whether to put the amendment on the ballot in November.
"I don't object to people's religious views being brought into the debate. I think that's the essence of what a lot of people are about, is their faith," said Bachmann. "And certainly that should be brought in, whether their faith informs them to support traditional marriage or not support traditional marriage. I welcome those viewpoints in the debate, The fact is we just have to have the debate."
Speakers at the Capitol rally drew enthusiastic applause for their comments against the amendment. But the loudest cheers came at the mention of the name of DFL Sen. Dean Johnson.
Johnson, the Senate's majority leader, is under fire for comments he made to a group of pastors in January. He claimed to have received assurances from Supreme Court justices that they wouldn't overturn the current state law banning gay marriage. Justices say the conversation never took place, and Johnson has since apologized for making misstatements.
Scott Cooper of the gay rights advocacy group OutFront Minnesota, one of the rally sponsors, says he wasn't surprised by the way the crowd responded for Johnson.
"A lot of the anger and frustration and politics around this are about homophobia. And people here can relate to allies who experience homophobia, and that's part of what's going on," said Cooper.
Sen. Johnson's troubles haven't subsided. The Minnesota Republican Party is launching another radio advertising campaign to target DFL senators who support Johnson and oppose the marriage amendment.
Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey says Senate Democrats have turned their heads away from their leader's outright lie. "If your child would come home from school and tell you a big whopper of a lie, you would forgive them, but you would also hold them accountable and have consequences for that lie. To do anything else would be irresponsible as a parent," said Carey. "We should not let Dean Johnson have a lower ethical standard than we hold our own children to."
A DFL Party official quickly denounced the Republican campaign, calling it a divisive political attack.
The Senate Ethics Committee has scheduled a meeting Friday morning to discuss the complaint filed this week against Johnson.