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Red Wing pride event expected to be bigger than ever

Two years ago, Red Wing's first gay pride event drew about 50 people. For last year's event, that number doubled.

This year, organizer Jerett Reuter is expecting a larger crowd.

"It's been bigger because of the marriage amendment," Reuter said.

While the proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment won't actually be addressed at the pride event, Reuter said he is making a deliberate effort to ensure this year's event draws more people from the Red Wing community and increases awareness.

"Red Wing may think that gay people aren't in Red Wing, but actually we are and we're a vibrant part of the community," Reuter said. "(The amendment) affects everybody."

This year's event, sponsored by Red Wing's chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, will be Aug. 5 during River City Days. Reuter said there will be more structure to the event this year with organized games, music and a grill-out.

"And then I know that we're going to be doing a gay history timeline," Reuter said.

In addition, organizations such as OutFront Minnesota and the Human Rights Commission will have informational booths set up.

Before the pride event starts, Reuter is encouraging people to march in the River Cities Days Parade with PFLAG.

"It's just an opportunity for people who would like to express publicly their opposition for the amendment," said Bruce Ause, of Red Wing's PFLAG.

Marchers are asked to wear rainbow-colored shirts and can carry handheld signs voicing opposition to the amendment.

"We're just trying to draw attention to the fact that this is on the ballot and encourage people to see the discrimination on this and vote no," Ause said.

Statewide awareness

But it's not just in Red Wing that voices surrounding the marriage amendment are getting louder.

It's a pattern seen across the state, especially as the November election nears. In just four months, Minnesotans will vote on whether to change the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The definition already is in state law, but amendment supporters say they fear the Legislature or judges could overturn the law, a much more difficult task if the definition is in the Constitution.

Sociologists say the amendment debate, while hotly debated in some groups, may be more under the radar for many Minnesotans.

"There are people on both sides who are intensely interested and motivated," said Kathleen Hull, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. "I am not sure I would say the state of Minnesota as a whole is interested."

Sociology professor Debra Peterson of Bemidji State University agreed.

"It is a touchstone issue in certain circles," she said about both sides. "In other circles, it is a non-issue."

But that's expected to change as Election Day nears and both proponents and opponents of the amendment begin airing TV ads voicing their opinions.

Amendment opponents at Minnesotans United for All Families have collected $4.6 million in contributions. The umbrella group fighting for the amendment, Minnesota for Marriage, reported $1.4 million in donations.

Both sides will spend much of their money on commercials, with opponents already reserving television time in the weeks leading up to the election.

Professors Peterson and Hull, both opponents of the amendment, said many Minnesotans have not picked a side.

"I think there are a lot of people trying to make up their minds on this matter," Peterson said.

Emotions likely will ramp up as the election approaches, and Hull said the campaigns could get ugly.

With expectations of heavy advertising on the way, Hull looked into her crystal ball: "I do predict people will be sick of this by Nov. 7 ... no matter what our position on it."

The details

What: Red Wing Gay Pride

Where: Izaak Walton Clubhouse, 1010 E. Fifth St.

When Aug. 5, 4 p.m.

Parade: Anyone interested in joining PFLAG to march in the River City Days Parade should wear rainbow-colored shirts and meet in the Law Enforcement Center parking lot at 12:30 p.m. The parade starts at 1 p.m.