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Local minister preaches equality for all.

WICHITA - Rev. Leigh Carlson Burgess, a progressive Christian Minister, performs same-sex marriages--with pride. An ordained Disciples of Christ minister, Rev. Burgess has already performed two same-sex marriages in Kansas with couples who received their marriage licenses in Iowa.

She says she is contemplating advertising for her services, but she may not need to. The word is already travelling. "By word of mouth I am getting requests for this service," she says.

Why do couples feel the need to have their ceremony performed by a minister? "Even though anyone can perform a marriage ceremony, some like being able to have a religious representative officiate," Rev. Burgess explains.

Rev. Burgess first became involved in officiating same-sex weddings when two male friends asked her to officiate their wedding. "They were holding off getting married until they could do so legally," she says. "They did not want to do a 'commitment ceremony.' When Iowa made it legal for same-sex couples to get a marriage license, they decided it was time."

So in December 2012, Rev. Burgess travelled with her two friends to Iowa, where they held a brief ceremony in the Atrium of the Council Bluffs Courthouse. A traditional wedding at Pine Valley Christian Church in Wichita, where she was serving as an interim associate minister, followed.

She has some astute observations based on her experiences with same-sex weddings so far. "There seems to be some tension around whom in the family will or will not show up for the ceremony due to disapproval of the relationship," Rev. Burgess says. "I have been impressed by the number of family members who attend and the show of support they give the couple."

She has also observed that during these ceremonies, the room is practically bursting with acceptance and love. "All those who are in attendance are so full of love that it makes these ceremonies extra special," she says. "The room exudes love and happiness."

Rev. Burgess says that many heterosexual people take for granted that they can get married at any time. "Same-sex couples are denied that right for years and when they are finally able to legally marry, the emotions are very high. The depth of the love and commitment expressed at these weddings just takes my breath away," she says.

Rev. Burgess has officiated one other same-sex wedding, has another quickly approaching, and would love to do more. "I enjoy seeing the joy and love of these people who are finally beginning to be able to live openly as the people God made them," she says. "I am emboldened by the knowledge that even clergy that approve of same-sex relationships are so often afraid to officiate these services. I have no fear of controversy or criticism. I feel very called by God to be a loving and supportive presence for these people who simply want to express their love and live freely and openly, the same as heterosexual people. Officiating at these weddings gives me great joy and a sense of deep spirituality."

Rev. Burgess can be reached at lcarlsonburgess@gmail.com.

By Ciara Reid, staff reporter

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Author:Reid, Ciara
Publication:Liberty Press
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Oct 1, 2013
Words:515
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