By Peter J. Smith

DES MOINES, Iowa, September 21, 2010 ( – The Catholic bishops of Iowa and Minnesota are sending Catholics a strong message this year: get out of the pews and into the political arena to protect marriage in their state constitutions.

“This is our time to stand up and defend marriage as a unique institution that, from the beginning of human history and in every culture, is the union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the human family and the upbringing of children,” said Rev. John Quinn, Bishop of Winona, a diocese of 130,000 Catholics, in the diocesan paper, The Courier.

The Minnesota Catholic Bishops are launching an aggressive six week campaign to remind or re-catechize Catholics about the truth of marriage, and urge them to contact their legislators, become informed about the candidates, and vote in the November 2 elections to defend marriage.

Minnesotans go to elect a new governor and legislature November 2, and the issue of marriage and same-sex “marriage” is at the forefront.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate Mark Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner support same-sex “marriage,” while GOP candidate Tom Emmer does not.

Local KSTP-TV reports the campaign effort involves sending a DVD on marriage to every single parishioner in the diocese – approximately 800,000 Minnesota Catholics – with an eight-minute message that also features Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Neinstedt. The video was prepared by the Knights of Columbus and is expected to be mailed out Wednesday.

“Our target is basically our Catholic people,” Nienstedt told ABC 5 Eyewitness News. “To remind them of what we believe and why we believe it and why it’s so important that they believe it.”

Right now a lawsuit is underway to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which bans same-sex “marriage” and does not recognize the validity of same-sex “marriages” contracted outside of the state.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against same-sex marriage in 1971 and four out of the seven sitting jurists on the high court were appointed by pro-family GOP governor Tim Pawlenty, making it more likely the court will uphold the law.

Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota law professor and advocate for same-sex “marriage” noted that the lawsuit by homosexual advocates was a “very risky roll of the dice.” Given the political climate, he said, it could fuel further “dissatisfaction with the incumbents and anyone else supportive of gay marriage.”

Just last week, Nienstedt repeated his call that Minnesota must pass a constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in a pastoral message for Catechetical Sunday, September 19.

He also reminded them that same sex unions were among the four “contemporary challenges” to the meaning and purpose of marriage identified by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in a 2009 document, “Marriage Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” The other challenges were divorce, contraception, and co-habitation.

Meanwhile, in the state of Iowa the Catholic Conference has signed on to an effort to get voter approval for a state constitutional convention that would enable Iowans to amend the constitution. The amendment, they see, is the quickest way to respond to a 7-0 ruling by state Supreme Court justices that struck down Iowa’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act.

Every 10 years Iowans have the opportunity to vote on holding a state constitutional convention, and the question is coming up for vote in 2010. If approved, then a convention would be scheduled and delegates elected according to a process established by the legislature. Any amendments or even a new constitution created by the convention would then have to be put on the ballot for voter approval in order to take effect.

Early voting in Iowa starts September 23, and the Iowa Catholic Conference has already begun circulating an educational flyer, encouraging Catholics to vote “yes” on a constitutional convention.

“A ‘yes’ vote on this measure will allow Catholics and others to work for a marriage amendment to the Iowa constitution. This amendment would affirm the traditional understanding that marriage is a union of one man and one woman,” it stated.