As many Americans continue to struggle with the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, one mother’s experience having to reconcile the sexuality of her gay son with her conservative Christian faith has inspired her to help lead the way. Oklahoma mother Sarah Cunningham unexpectedly went viral on Facebook on July 20 after she posted a message offering to serve as “a mom” at same sex wedding. If “your biological mom won’t,” she wrote, “call me. I’m there. I’ll be your biggest fan. I’ll even bring the bubbles.” Her message prompted a response she could never have imagined, as hundreds of people commented on her post and flocked to share their stories with her, with many asking if she would be able to attend their weddings.
Speaking to CBS News, Sara Cunningham said that her involvement with the LGBTQ community began after one of her sons, Parker, came out to her when she was 21 years old. At the time, Cunningham acknowledged, her son’s confession left her feeling torn and deeply confused.
“I’m a woman of faith … We live in a conservative town. It sound bad to say it, but I felt like I had to choose between my child and faith. I was under this impression it was the ultimate offense,” she recalled. “I didn’t know where to look for resources at first. I thought I was the only mom in Oklahoma with a gay kid.”
But after finding a private Facebook group where other moms shared their own experiences negotiating a balance between their faith and the reality of their children’s sexualities, she realized that acceptance — and love — was more important than dogma. In 2014, she said, her perspective was changed for good after she attended her first pride parade.
“We stood with our son at a pride parade in Oklahoma City. It was my first interaction with the community that I was so alienated from by my own ignorance and my own fear … And I realized this was a beautiful community,” she told CBS.
Since then, Cunningham has gone on to run her own Facebook page for mothers with LGBTQ children — the “Free Mom Hugs” page — and got ordained so that she could begin officiating same-sex weddings. It was her experiences talking to men and women whose parents refused to attend their wedding ceremonies, she said, that inspired her to write her now viral post.
Read the full story at CBS News.