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Published January 31, 2012, 06:53 PM

MN Gay Marriage Ban Supports Raise Over $1.2M

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Groups supportive of a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution to ban gay marriage reported Tuesday they've raised over $1.2 million so far to try to persuade voters to approve the ballot measure in November, putting themselves on par with amendment opponents for now.

By: Steve Karnowski, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Groups supportive of a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution to ban gay marriage reported Tuesday they've raised over $1.2 million so far to try to persuade voters to approve the ballot measure in November, putting themselves on par with amendment opponents for now.

Minnesota for Marriage, the main multi-faith coalition of groups working to pass the amendment, said in a statement that it raised $830,000 last year and recruited over 10,000 volunteers.

"We have demonstrated substantial and broad-based support for preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, which represents the state's Roman Catholic bishops, raised $750,000 for the amendment campaign, said its executive director, Jason Adkins. He said $650,000 came from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, while $50,000 apiece came from the Dioceses of New Ulm and Duluth — all of it from investment income, not from collection plates, other donations or parishes. Adkins said the conference then contributed $350,000 of its total to Minnesota for Marriage.

Archbishop John Nienstedt is a leading supporter of the proposed ban. "Marriage as a union between one man and one woman is an essential teaching of the Church and a fundamental value that serves the common good of society," the archdiocese said in a statement.

Other pro-amendment groups that were expected to file reports with the state by Tuesday's deadline detailing their fundraising and spending as of Dec. 31 included the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage. Officials with those two groups did not immediately release details about their reports.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board planned to post the reports on its website Wednesday morning.

The largest group fighting the amendment, Minnesotans United for All Families, said last week it had raised over $1.2 million in 2011. Its spokesman, Jake Loesch, said the group had no immediate comment on the pro-amendment fundraising figures. But Richard Carlbom, the group's campaign executive director, said in-kind donations pushed the total up to $1.5 million.

Minnesota already prohibits same-sex marriage, but amendment supporters say it needs to be written into the state constitution to prevent courts from allowing same-sex couples to wed in the future.

The pro- and anti-amendment campaigns are still in the early stages for what's expected to be a hard fight.

"Our objective is to make sure we raise enough money to communicate our messages, and we're certainly on track to do that," Helmberger said in his statement. "We're in a good position going forward and have built a solid foundation of financial and organizational support."

A spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage, Chuck Darrell, said the coalition expects to be outspent but will use its money to assemble a grassroots operation and get its message out. He said his group is currently posting short weekly videos on its website answering questions about the amendment, and its volunteers will be spreading the messages with their families and friends, at their places of worship, and to civic groups.

Adkins said the Minnesota Catholic Conference is spending the money it retained on outreach to the Catholic community.

"We're trying to educate Catholics about what marriage is, why it's important and what are the consequences of its being redefined," he said.

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