Bishop John Nienstedt, the archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, has defended the Catholic Church's backing of an amendment that seeks to ban gay marriage in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Legislature last month approved the constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a heterosexual union, sending it to voters for their approval in 2012.

In an op-ed published Thursday in the Catholic Spirit, Nienstedt insisted there is nothing anti-gay about the amendment.

“Regrettably, the media and some secular commentators have chosen to mischaracterize this measure as anti-gay, mean-spirited and prejudicial,” he wrote. “This is not the case or the intent behind the initiative.”

Nienstedt argued that the amendment is needed to protect children: “Pastorally, children flourish best in the context of having both a mother and a father. Every scientific study confirms this reality.”

The Minnesota Independent debunked Nienstedt's claim, noting that a review of 81 studies on the issue came to the opposite conclusion.

The researchers concluded that children raised by same-gender parents are “statically indistinguishable from kids raised by married moms and dads” on measures including self-esteem, school performance and social adjustment.

Nienstedt also quoted Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who has compared gay marriage to polygamy and incest.

“If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?” Dolan wrote in objecting to a proposal to legalize gay marriage in New York.

“His argumentation is hard to refute,” Nienstedt said.