One woman’s viral Facebook post offering to stand in for any mother who refuses to attend her child’s same-sex wedding is inspiring others to step up with similar offers.
Sara Cunningham, of Oklahoma City, Okla., posted a message in July offering to play the role of stand-in mom at any same-sex weddings.
“Call me. I’m there. I’ll be your biggest fan,” she wrote.
The post quickly racked up thousands of shares and hundreds of emails to Cunningham – far more than she ever expected to receive.
“I’ve just been thrilled with the outcome,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
Advocating for people in the LGBTQ community in Oklahoma is nothing new for Cunningham. She describes herself as an “accidental activist” who became involved in LGBTQ causes after her son, who was raised in a conservative church in a conservative state, began to identify as gay.
Cunningham started being asked if she would officiate same-sex weddings, and became ordained so she could do so.
The more same-sex couples she met, she says, the more she learned about couples whose families do not accept their relationships and refuse to attend their weddings. Those conversations led to her offer on Facebook.
“After hearing story after story after story, I just posted it out of frustration,” she said.
Cunningham says she is willing to travel “within a reasonable distance” to fill in for absent parents at same-sex weddings. People outside Oklahoma have also been in touch, offering to fill the same roles in other parts of the U.S.
She shares some of the responses she has received on her Facebook page, with the permission of the people who sent them.
“I wish I had a mother like you. I’m sure you hear that a lot,” one person wrote. “All I wanted my entire life was to make my mother proud. According to her, I’m going to Hell, ruining her health, ruining my life and making the worst decision to marry the one I love.”
Cunningham is also the founder of Free Mom Hugs, a non-profit organization she started in 2015 after attending her local Pride festival while wearing a button bearing that phrase.
“Everyone that made eye contact with me, I would say ‘Can I offer you a free mom hug?’” she said. “I went home that day covered from head to toe with glitter.”
Whether doliing out hugs or playing substitute mom at a wedding, Cunningham says her goal is to help people in the LGBTQ community understand that they are not alone.