Despite the fact that the bishops of Washington State have recently issued a pastoral letter against Referendum 74 which would legalize marriage equality in that state, polls are indicating that voters are not heeding that message.
According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog:
“Referendum 74, legalizing marriage equality, is leading 56-38 percent in the latest SurveyUSA poll of Washington voters for King-5 News, after being up by a narrower 50-43 percent margin six weeks ago.”
The polling is not as optimistic in Minnesota, which has a constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage on the ballot:
“. . .results of a new Public Policy Polling survey show a dead heat: 48 percent support, and 47 percent oppose a state constitutional amendment that would define “marriage” as exclusively between a man and a woman.”
The blog post cites Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul as the strongest opponent of marriage equality in Minnesota. Catholic institutions have donated $1 million to the campaign to defeat marriage equality.
As we’ve reported before, Nienstedt has forbidden the priests of his archdiocese to publicly express any dissent on this matter. But that has not seemed to stop some priests from staging a passive protest against the archbishop’s campaign. When Nienstedt issued a letter against marriage equality this month, 17 parishes, including the Basilica of St. Mary, refused to read the letter at Mass.
The Post-Intelligencer blog points out that Nienstedt seems to have softened his rhetoric even though he has not changed his message:
“But the hard-line archbishop has softened his tone. As recently as 2010 he warned that anyone who ‘actively encourages and promotes homosexual acts formally cooperates in a grave evil, and . . . are guilty of mortal sin.’
“In his latest missive, however, Nienstedt speaks of those with ‘same sex attractions’ as ‘productive citizens, community servants, good friends and our beloved family members.’ ”
Of course, Nienstedt is not the only Catholic voice active in Minnesota. There is the good work of Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota, which is working to oppose the ban on marriage equality. They been distributing yard signs that say “Another Catholic Voting No” for parishioners to display. And 102 retired and resigned priests have signed statements urging Catholics to vote “no.” (Because the ballot question in Minnesota is designed to block marriage equality from being legalized, a “no” vote is a vote in support of marriage equality.)
Political experts know that ballot initiatives are won or lost not by poll numbers, but by voter turnout. The side who gets the most people to the voting booths on election day wins, regardless of what polls say. If Catholics want to make a difference in these four states, they have to get to the polls that day and get their friends, Catholic and otherwise, to do the same.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry