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Rev. Bob Kelly performs marriage ceremony for daughter and her partner

Eileen Kerkhoven, left, looks at the Rev. Bob Kelly during a small marriage ceremony Saturday afternoon. Kelly's daughter, Margaret Kelly, holds the couple's child, Francis. JUSTIN GLAWE | BEMIDJI PIONEER1 / 2
The Rev. Bob Kelly, pastor of Peoples Church, signs his daughter's marriage certificate Saturday. Margaret Kelly married Eileen Kerhoven thanks to the Freedom to Marry Act. JUSTIN GLAWE | BEMIDJI PIONEER2 / 2

BEMIDJI — Margaret Kelly is a pastor, a progressive, a mother and now, finally, officially and legally according to the laws of Minnesota, married.

Near a fire circle and in front of friends and family Saturday, Eileen Kerkhoven became Kelly’s wife by the words of her father, the Rev. Bob Kelly.

"This is not unusual, this is not weird," Bob Kelly said. "This is God’s plan for you both."

Eileen and Margaret were married before, albeit in the religious sense, not the legal one. That changed Saturday. The marriage certificate was signed in triplicate, by the pair, Bob Kelly and Audrey Thayer of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I just want to remind everyone that we’re able to this because of this country’s wonderful constitution," Thayer said.

"And your hard work," Eileen added.

Now that it’s official, the couple can concentrate on raising their daughter, Francis, who will celebrate her first birthday this week. Eileen will still have to legally adopt Francis to be listed as a parent, but any future children the couple has — and Margaret said they plan on having more — will automatically have both women listed as parents. Thanks to the Freedom to Marry Act, that is.

"This helps us," Margaret said.

Usually, it’s the Kelly family doing the helping. Among the guests at the ceremony were several men and women who are homeless, and who are members of Bob Kelly’s congregation at Peoples Church. Not surprisingly, Margaret has a flock of her own in St. Paul, where she works for Shobi’s Table — a ministry with a message, but no building.

"I’m a pastor to those who are homeless, who are poor, who are on the margins," she said.

Eileen also works with poverty-stricken families, but does so in a governmental capacity with the Minnesota Department of Human Service.

"She’s the church and I’m the state," she said, looking at Margaret.

With her father officiating, Margaret held Francis in her arms Saturday afternoon. A quick rainstorm that darkened the skies passed, and the sun came out, baking the wet grass. As Francis squirmed, the two women passed their daughter back and forth. She’s part of "the unit," Eileen said.

Then, Eileen Kerkhoven became Eileen Kelly. It was simple, short and to the point.

"I like my civil ceremony and my religious ceremonies to be separate," Margaret said. "One is my civil rights and my rights on planet earth, and the other is my rights from God. And those rights trump the others."

Now, she has both.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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