After 60 years of active involvement with their Tennessee church, a family is facing exile from their religious community because their daughter fought to pass legislation offering benefits to same-sex couples in the town where she worked as a law enforcement official.
Police detective Kat Cooper, who married her wife Krista in Maryland earlier this year, led the initiative that resulted in Collegedale, Tenn., becoming the first city in the state to extended family benefits to same-sex couples, according to Spectrum Magazine. The bill passed in early August after months of effort on the part of Cooper, spawned largely by the denial of health coverage for her wife despite their legal status as a married couple in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
Cooper's mother, Linda, reportedly stood by her daughter throughout the whole process and embraced Cooper after the city council passed the bill on Aug. 5. A video of Cooper discussing her struggle to get the legislation passed can be viewed above.
However, the celebrations surrounding Cooper and her wife's legal victory were short-lived. Following a Sunday morning service, leaders at the family's regular place of worship, the Ridgedale Church of Christ, asked to meet with members of Cooper's family, including her mother. At this meeting, church officials reportedly gave the family two options: Publicly repent for their sins in front of the church's congregation and ask for God's forgiveness -- or leave the church.
Ridgedale Church of Christ Pastor Ken Willis reportedly stated that church leaders had to intervene because the family's act of supporting Cooper throughout her battle to extend family benefits to same-sex couples communicated a public endorsement of homosexuality, according to Raw Story.
Cooper's grandparents were largely considered founding members of the church, with a picture of her grandfather hanging in the building and serving as a church elder during his lifetime, according to the TimesFreePress report.
"She is just so traumatized and so upset," Kat's father Kurt Cooper said, in reference to how his wife is handling exile from Ridgedale Church of Christ. "It has been days and she's still crying. It's almost like losing a family member...there's no sin to repent for and she's not going to turn her back on her daughter."
Since the ruling of DOMA as unconstitutional and social and political gains by the LGBT community gaining traction in frequency and impact, anti-gay groups and individuals seem to be increasingly more vocal and affirmative in their opposition. On an international scale, we've seen the backlash against LGBT individuals in Russia and abroad. More locally, companies and businesses are denying services to same-sex couples, anti-LGBT violence in NYC has seen a 70 percent increase, and organizations are filing suit in an effort to counter large-scale political gains. While the attitudes regarding the place of same-sex individuals in religious institutions do seem to be changing in some capacity, Cooper's story serves to evidence the struggles that LGBT individuals still face when attempting to retain membership in a religious community.
On a lighter note, at the time of this posting, the Ridgedale Church of Christ's Facebook Page seems to have been hilariously hacked and flooded with pro-LGBT posts, messages and images.