(Photo: James Sanna)
Maggie Gallagher, leader of the National Organization for Marriage, a leading mind behind California’s Proposition 8, and top contender for Most Villified Opponent of LGBT Equality was in St Paul on Saturday morning, but you’d hardly realize it reading the newspaper. Or by following the DFL gubenatorial candidates courting the LGBT vote. Of the 10 DFLers seeking their party’s endorsement for the November race, only State Senator John Marty, a long-time ally of the Minnesota LGBT community, turned up at a rally held near the University of St Thomas auditorium where Gallagher was speaking.

“Minnesotans are fair-minded people that understand that all people should be equally under the law,” Marty said in a press statement. “It is because of my faith, not in spite of it, that I think we should promote marriage and work to strengthen families of same-sex couples just as we do opposite-sex couples. ”

About 300 people turned out along with Senator Marty and State Rep. Maria Rudd for coffee, sticky buns, and an early Saturday morning protest against Gallagher, who was speaking at the invitation of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, and against the University of St Thomas’ decision to allow Gallagher to speak on its campus. Many LGBT students at St Thomas were incensed that Gallagher was permitted to speak, but former Archbishop Desmond Tutu was barred from speaking on campus three years ago for criticizing Israel’s human rights record.

Jim Winter, a spokesman for the University, was eager to distance St Thomas from the invitation extended to Gallagher by the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis to speak. The Archdiocese had approached the University under the terms of a 1987 “affiliation agreement” that reorganized a Church-owned seminary next door under the joint control of the University and the Archdiocese, and which gave the University control over much of the Seminary’s campus. The request to use a University auditorium was routine, Winter said, and while the University was not sponsoring the event, Gallagher’s visit was still covered under the school’s speakers policy, and wasn’t considdered controversial by school adiminstrators.

“I can’t see it hapening for the University to say ‘no, you can’t bring them here’ if someone supports traditional Catholic values around marriage,” Winter told TheColu.mn.

Still, according to St Thomas students at the rally, the University tried to keep news of Gallagher’s visit quiet. Nick Kor, a junior and a leading member of a campus LGBT support group, told TheColu.mn that he only heard about Gallagher’s planned speech from OutFront Minnesota.

Others, including protest co-organizer Michael Bailey of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorites, were speaking out against the Catholic Church’s stance on LGBT issues.

“When our [LGBT] families are denied rights, our families suffer and Christian communities suffer!” 2009 St Thomas alum and Pfund Foundation staffer Alfonso Wenker told the rally.

Michael Bailey (Photo: James Sanna)
His father, a self-professed “life-long Catholic,” blasted the Church for rejecting LGBT people, telling the crowd, saying “God loves me and you just the way we are!”

But other than holding forth on marriage, family, and life to participants in a series of smaller forums on that subject run by the Archdiocese, it is not completely clear why Gallagher was in St Paul. Was it to help cover-up the most recent round of priestly child abuse scandals, as the head of the Catholic LGBT group Dignity Twin Cities told the rally? Was it to lay the groundwork for a push to further limit the rights of same-gender couples in Minnesota?

David Strand, a local LGBT rights activist and long-time Green Party organizer, told TheColu.mn that he thinks this is the first shot in an attempt to make same-gender marriage a major issues in this year’s race for governor.

“But hey,” Strand said, “if they’re coming here [to push back LGBT rights], it means we’re doing something right!”

For more pictures of the demonstration, see OutFront Minnesota’s Facebook page.

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