For gay couples, marriage is not an option. But David Kistle and Jerry Ziertman, both 49, held a blessing ceremony of their relationship at St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., where they have been members for four years.
"It's similar [to a wedding]," Kistle said. "It was an opportunity to publicly proclaim our commitment to each other. Our children (each has two children from a former marriage) participated. The fact that we can't get married in the traditional sense creates some distress for me, but it didn't feel any less real."
Ziertman agreed. "It was binding as far as the feeling of our church, but there is an underlying thought that this is not real because it is not real in the church or the legal world," he said.
"People asked us if it was any different after the ceremony because we had been living together," Kistle said. "It is a stronger tie because of the public dimension and the fact that we're wearing rings that we gave each other as symbols of our love and faithfulness."
The ceremony was one of several performed at St. Paul since 1983. "We continue to be in dialogue with the church about this, and they know what we're doing," said Paul Tidemann, pastor of St. Paul. "We think a service of blessing provides stability and support for [gay and lesbian] members. With all of the gay bashing going on, they need all the support they can get."
The ELCA Conference of Bishops said in 1993 that there is "no basis in Scripture or tradition for such blessings."
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