Gay couples begin to find acceptance in some faith communities
DULUTH - Kelsy Kuehn of Duluth dreams of a day when same-sex couples will be treated the same as heterosexuals. But she's the first to admit there's probably a long time to go before she and her lesbian partner will be able to enjoy the same righ...
DULUTH - Kelsy Kuehn of Duluth dreams of a day when same-sex couples will be treated the same as heterosexuals.
But she's the first to admit there's probably a long time to go before she and her lesbian partner will be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges afforded to male-female couples.
Same-sex marriage still isn't allowed in Minnesota and, on Sunday, Kuehn outlined many of the complications that stem from being denied a legal union. She appeared as a guest speaker from the pulpit of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, which welcomed guests of all sexual orientations Sunday morning to a special service celebrating the Duluth-Superior Pride Festival.
Kuehn said unmarried same-sex couples face a bewildering array of hurdles when it comes to adoption, filing taxes, obtaining joint Social Security benefits, navigating insurance policies, providing care for a partner or a shared child not of their own blood, inheriting property without incurring a big tax bite, making medical decisions for an incapacitated partner, declaring joint bankruptcy and qualifying for many of the tax benefits married couples receive.
"But the greatest benefit to legalizing same-sex marriage would be the social acceptance that would follow," Kuehn said.
Even though society at large hasn't yet come around to Kuehn's way of thinking, she said the modicum of support offered by progressive churches such as the Unitarian congregation in Duluth helps people feel accepted.
"It's extremely important to know you can bring your partner to church like anyone else," Kuehn said. "For me, it's all about creating a sense of normalcy in people's lives. That's one of the problems I have with big 'pride' events like this one."
Kuehn explained that she aspires simply to be treated as others in society.
Scot Bol, a member of the Unitarian Church and chairman of its peace and justice committee, said fighting discrimination is in keeping with the Unitarian principles, as evidenced by early efforts to abolish slavery and church activists' subsequent battle to win civil rights for the nation's minorities.
But outside the church's walls, the divisive debate continued on Sunday. A handful of protesters gathered at the church's roadside with signs critical of the gay pride event.
"If we justify the wicked, we are an abomination to God," said Peter Scott of Duluth, going on to say that he found it particularly upsetting that members of a church would see fit to welcome homosexuals into their midst.
Bol said that while he felt the criticism was misguided, "I support their democratic right to protest. We all need to keep speaking to one another in a respectful way."
Paul Eckhardt of Duluth joined the local Unitarian church with his partner, Doug Stevens, five years ago, and said: "I didn't realize how important becoming part of a church community would be, until I found one that worked."
Recently, the two men celebrated spending 25 years as a couple with a commitment celebration.
"More than 200 people showed up. It was phenomenal to see the love and support," Stevens said. "I still get tears in my eyes when I think about it."