BEMIDJI – A few dozen people gathered Saturday at the Rotary Pavilion on the Lake Bemidji waterfront to rally support for the marriage amendment in the final weeks before the election.

The event was hosted by Minnesota for Marriage, a group that’s campaigning for the amendment. Minnesota voters will be asked on Election Day “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

Brad Brandon, a pastor and member of Minnesota for Marriage, told the crowd that gay marriage is a threat to religious liberty and if the amendment fails, the state and country will be “fundamentally changed.”

“We’re losing our religious liberties very quickly in this country,” Brandon said. He cited a case in which a photographer was sued for declining to shoot a same-sex marriage due to religious beliefs, and other instances in which he claimed gay rights were trumping religious liberties.

Brandon compared the silence of others when Jews were stripped of their rights in Nazi Germany to some churches’ reluctance to get involved in the marriage amendment debate.

“The church is largely silent when it comes to standing up for our religious freedom, when it comes to this issue of marriage,” he said. He encouraged people to get involved, adding that “Voting ‘Yes’ is not enough.”

Amendment opponents say it will write discrimination into the constitution, which is much more difficult to change than state statute. Minnesota already has a law recognizing marriage as between one man and one woman.

Brandon said there is an “active push” in the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage, hence the need for the amendment.

Yard signs supporting the amendment lined Paul Bunyan Drive near Carnegie Library. A few drivers honked in support, while one yelled “Vote no to discrimination.”

“We shouldn’t be using our constitution to take people’s rights away,” said Ken Martin, state DFL party chairman, during a recent visit to Bemidji. “Regardless of whether or not you believe it’s right for gay people to marry each other, I don’t think it sends a good signal in our state when we enshrine discrimination into our constitution.”

Recent polls have suggested the two sides are very close coming into the last month before the election. A Public Policy Poll from earlier in the month said 49 percent of Minnesotans oppose the amendment, while 46 percent support it. However, a SurveyUSA poll last month showed that 50 percent of people favored the amendment, while 43 percent were opposed.

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