St. Paul-area Lutherans on Saturday went on record against changing the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

About 430 Lutherans representing 115 congregations in the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted on a resolution opposing the marriage amendment at the group's annual assembly at Burnsville's Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

Those in favor of the resolution raised green cards with the word "yes." Those against it flashed red cards that read "no." The greens overwhelmingly had it.

"I think to have a constitutional amendment that excludes certain people from basic rights as citizens is abominable," said the Rev. Paul Tidemann, a retired pastor and member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, who authored the resolution.

"We are singling out a certain set of people and saying they don't have the same rights as other people," he said. "Gay and lesbian people ... in relationships have the same gifts and challenges as do heterosexual people and should have the same rights to live their lives together."

Minnesota faith groups remain heavily divided over the amendment, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

With nearly 800,000 members and as Minnesota's second-largest religious denomination, ELCA Lutherans have been among the most active in the campaign to defeat the controversial amendment.

The St. Paul synod, the nation's second-largest ELCA synod, has about 140,000 baptized members. Its resolution follows on the heels of the Minneapolis Area Synod and three other state synods also voting against the amendment.

On the other side of the debate, Catholic bishops representing Minnesota's largest single denomination, with close to 1.1 million members, back the amendment. Some lay Catholics and former priests, however, have objected to the bishops' anti-gay marriage stance.

An increasing number of conservative evangelical Protestant churches and leaders have also spoken out in favor of the amendment.

State law already defines marriage as the union of a man and woman. Supporters of the proposed amendment argue that belief should be enshrined in the Constitution so judges or legislators couldn't overturn it.

At least half a dozen people spoke for or against the measure. Those against it questioned whether it was appropriate for the synod to take a stand on the issue.

Adrian Poynter, a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, spoke against it, saying he believes the "institutional church has no business in secular politics. It divides people."

Jim Redfield, a member of First Lutheran Church in Rush City, agreed. "I don't believe we should be taking a position on this [marriage] amendment as a church body," he said.

Rose French • 612-673-4352