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Kathy Hodges and Patty Puyear were the first same-sex couple to apply for a civil marriage license in Douglas County. (Echo Press photo by Crystal Dey)

LUCKY in LOVE on Friday the 13th

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A setting September sun shone through the stained glass chapel windows casting a radiant glow onto the loving couple anxiously awaiting the precise moment when they would be pronounced Mrs. and Mrs.

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Kathy Hodges, in a crisp red dress shirt and pressed black slacks, stood proudly by her 4’ 9-¾” bride, Patty Puyear, wearing a flowing red dress and heels on their wedding day, Friday, September 13, 2013. Thirteen years ago, they didn’t know this day would come.

“Thirteen is our number,” Hodges said.

The couple met on October 13, 2000 at a bowling alley in Las Vegas. Their civil union ceremony was performed in Vermont on April 13 two years later. The day the couple was given legal custody of Patty’s nieces, Desi and Lizzie, was July 13.

Including the District of Columbia, presently 13 states recognize same-sex marriages.

RIGHTEOUS

RITUALS

Pastor Scott Keehn officiated the ladies’ union at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Alexandria.

Hodges and Puyear’s wedding rings, tied with red ribbon, were handed to every member of the congregation in a ring warming rite to bless the union and wish them luck. Luck on Friday the 13th.

Accenting Pastor Keehn’s traditional white robe was a multi-colored sash that carried the red theme throughout the ceremony. Guests received rainbow and heart adorned programs.

The decor was understated, the vows short and sweet, the reception quaintly held in the church basement. The pews were packed and history was made. Hodges and Puyear were the first same-sex couple to be married in the church’s chapel.

The newlyweds are planning a series of Minnesota road trips for their honeymoon — a thank you to the state that gave them its blessing.

BREAKING TRADITION

Hodges and Puyear have been active in the pursuit of equal rights for lesbian and gay couples to marry. In 2006, they attended a rally in St. Paul when legislators were debating a bill that would amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

The marriage amendment made it onto the ballots in the election of 2012 and was denied by the people of Minnesota in a 1,510,434 to 1,399,916 vote. The Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, as unconstitutional on June 26, 2013.

As of August 1, 2013, lesbian and gay couples throughout the state have been openly, and legally, expressing their love for one another. Hodges and Puyear were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Douglas County.

“Neither of us thought same-sex marriages would be legal in Minnesota,” Hodges said.

When the court ruled, the couple was not at the Capitol, they were in their Alexandria home. They held each other and cried.

“We were flabbergasted,” Puyear said.

To celebrate, their niece Desi gave them each a watch, because, she said, “Times, they are a changin’.”

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., New York, Maine, Washington, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota allow same-sex marriage. California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Hawaii, Colorado and Wisconsin have enacted marriage equivalency measures.

The newly legalized unions will alleviate additional stressors gay couples had to endure previously. In the past, Hodges and Puyear spent time and money on attorney services to properly draft their wills. Their home, cars and insurance had to be put in both names. Hodges said it was for legal reasons based on the structure of society.

In emergency situations, the next of kin’s wishes would supercede that of a partner when one of the people in a gay relationship was unable to make decisions on their own behalf.

“Heterosexual couples don’t have to take those extra steps,” Hodges said. “Entering into a ‘marriage’ shows lifelong commitment to each other and conveys meaning to the community.”

Legal aspects of life will change in many areas for gay couples now that they can marry. Hodges said the most apparent impact on daily life will be when she says, “Hey, Wife,” it will actually mean “wife.”

RAINBOW FAMILY

If you remove “same-sex” from the equation, the Hodges-Puyear family is...fairly normal.

Puyear works in restorative therapy for Bethany Community. Hodges owns Jacks Family Recycling and works for Donnelly Machine as a press operator.

“We’re not the only gays and lesbians in Alexandria,” Hodges said.

The two live outside Alexandria with their three dogs and a few birds. They raised their nieces in that home. A home that is decorated with Mickey Mouse, Tigger, leprechauns and the Lord’s Prayer.

Hodges and Puyear are Christians. They say grace before dinner and pray every morning. They believe in God and Jesus.

To people who say being gay goes against God, the ladies offer a piece of advice they heard from Pastor Keehn: If you look for the bad in others, you’re going to find it. Look for the good, you’ll find that too.

“We have a family like everybody else.” Puyear said. “We raised children like everybody else.”

Although the couple belongs to an open and affirming church and have not experienced any negative feedback from the community, the decision to bring Puyear’s nieces to Alexandria from Texas wasn’t easy.

“We didn’t know how bringing a rainbow family back to Alexandria would be received,” Puyear said. “It wasn’t a problem.”

‘LOVE IS LOVE’

Hodges and Puyear, both 55 years old, have been down the aisle before. Each were married to men prior to becoming openly gay and dating women.

Hodges, from Alexandria, was married for 16 years before realizing she was gay.

“Growing up in small town USA, how do you know?” Hodges said. There wasn’t a network or any way to communicate with other gay people. Something she said Pastor Keehn is working to create.

“We want to let gays know they’re not alone,” Hodges said. “Love is love.”

Puyear doesn’t identify with a hometown. She moved a lot, all over the world actually, and had three children before she knew that traditional heterosexual relationships weren’t her preference.

“In the beginning, you try to fit into the cookie cutter,” Puyear said. She recalls knowing she was gay from a young age. When she “came out” to her parents, they already knew.

“Even my grandma was OK with it,” Puyear said.

Hodges was most nervous about telling her father, so she did it during bingo at the Eagles club. Her parents eased her apprehension. “You’re fine. We love you,” they said.

Patty and Kathy’s nuptuals were streamed live on Ustream.tv. Search “Firstcongochurch” if you would like to view the ceremony.

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Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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