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New Minnesota group named for gay soldier killed in Afghanistan aims to change minds on marriage equality

A new group called Andrew’s Round Table, which is named for Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, a gay soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in February, has launched to educate Minnesotans about equal rights for same-sex couples.

“A small group of us had met a few times regarding the Marriage amendment once it was pushed onto the ballot,” Sallie VanHouten, a member of the group, told the Minnesota Independent. “We all had loved ones past and present who were LGBT. My precious sister had died last November at the age of 52 very tragically and, with the pain of that still tugging at my heart, the amendment was even harder to bear.”

She said all the group members “desperately” want the 2012 vote on the marriage amendment to fail.

“We wondered what a small group of straight people could do to honor our loved ones and make the future a little brighter for those young ones who feel hopeless or marginalized by this amendment,” she said.

The group’s mission is to change Minnesotans’ minds on LGBT equality: “Our main goal is to encourage thoughtful conversation on this issue.”

One of the ART’s first events will feature Randy Roberts Potts, the grandson of famed televangelist Oral Roberts. The group is bringing him to speaking engagements in Minneapolis, Rosemount and Winona over the next week.

“A friend of mine who is retired was watching Joy Behar during the day saw Randy on there and researched him and found his sermon at All Souls,” said VanHouten. “He sent it to me and I forwarded it to the group.”

In July, Potts gave a sermon at All Souls Church in Tulsa, Okla., about his experiences growing up gay at the evangelical compound created by his grandfather. Here’s that sermon:

She added, “We were all so moved by Randy we wondered could we get him here. Since it seemed to be the churches who were organizing on the other side of this we decided maybe Randy could offer a more welcoming side of this issue. His perspective being raised evangelical is unique and very heartfelt.”

VanHouten said what drives her, and the 9 other members of ART, is equality for the LGBT community.

“Andrew Wilfarht and my sister Nancy are gone how many more will be gone before full equality is a reality for LGBT persons,” she said.

Andrew Wilfahrt

Andrew’s Roundtable is named for Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in February. His parents, Jeff and Lori, have been sharing their stories of his life at speaking engagements around the country. At the Outserve conference in Las Vegas last weekend, Lori spoke about Andrew and the fight for equality:

“Andrew died protecting rights that he himself could not enjoy, especially the right to marry the person he loved,” Lori Wilfarht told Outserve.

Of the push to amend Minnesota’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, she said, “The constitution our son died for was intended to protect rights, not deny them.”

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