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Dakota County 'vote no' campaign kicks off

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A grassroots effort to defeat an amendment outlawing same-sex marriage in Minnesota kicked off Sunday afternoon in Dakota County.

Nearly 200 people from around the county came together to launch the Dakota County Votes No effort, the first of several such efforts that will be organized statewide with the help of Minnesotans United for All Families. Participants shared the personal stories about how they got involved, and went through training meant to help them spread their message to the wider public. Minnesotans United for All Families also recently opened an office in Eagan, joining offices in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth and Rochester.

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The Dakota County event will serve as a template for other organizations around the state.

"We've seen a lot of grassroots efforts all across the state, particularly in Dakota County," said Kate Brickman, press secretary for Minnesotans United for All Families. "We've really just been providing resources to these grassroots efforts. It's their first chance to get all together in a group."

Minnesota law does not currently recognize same-sex marriage. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November would make it more difficult to ever change that.

Farmington resident Timothy Finke was among the people to speak at Sunday's event. He got involved after attending a lobbying day at the Minnesota capitol.

Finke, who is gay, said he wants to preserve his right to get married someday.

"Everyone deserves the same rights as anyone else," Finke said. "It doesn't matter who you love. The government shouldn't give rights to some people and not others."

Rosemount High School teacher Veda Kanitz helped organize Sunday's event. She got involved because of her role as a teacher and as a sister.

"I've been married for 30 years and feel that marriage is extremely important and valuable," Kanitz said. "I have a sister who lives with her partner in Duluth and would like to be married for the same reason I'm married.

"As a teacher, I'm there because I want all my students to reach their full potential," she said. "I don't want an amendment that tells them you can't do something."

Finke knew he was different than the other boys at school before he ever had a word for it. He came out to his parents when he was 14, and while they were supportive he found the rest of the community less welcoming. Now 20, it wasn't until he joined Farmington's Light of the World Church last October that Finke found much outside support.

Light of the World pastor Deb Stehlin spoke at Sunday's event at Finke's request. She talked about the importance of sharing personal stories.

Kanitz expects to spend a lot of time over the next several months telling her story.

"We know we have to talk to a lot of people," she said. "It's going to take a lot of conversations, because some people don't know people who are gay. They don't have those connections."

Twenty-nine other states have put amendments like Minnesota's on the ballot. So far they have all passed. Kanitz hopes Minnesota will be different.

Sunday's training was the first for Minnesotans United for All Families in what they expect to be a series of county-level organization events. In addition to the personal stories speakers shared there was instruction for the best way to talk to the public and persuade them to vote against the constitutional amendment.

"We're really just providing resources to these grassroots efforts," Brickman said. "We truly believe we win this by talking about why we're voting now."

The group will put what it has learned to use with phone banks and other efforts.

"It's a kickoff to the whole state, and it's just amazing," said Finke, who has applied for an internship with Minnesotans United. "We're going to take this to every county in Minnesota and get supporters. I'm just so excited."

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Nathan Hansen
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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