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Film documents law's effect on same-sex couple

A Unitarian Universalist couple leaves Virginia to preserve their rights.
By Amelia Koford
Fall 2005 8.15.05

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Suzanne Moe

Filmmaker Suzanne Moe. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Moe)

Fredericksburg, Va. - Suzanne Moe planned to screen her first documentary just once--to help her church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, Virginia, better understand the plight of a same-sex couple in the congregation. But within a few months of the December 2004 screening more than 1,000 copies of the film had been distributed to congregations, libraries, and individuals across the country.

The documentary, Barbara and Tibby: A Love Story--in the Face of Hate, tells the story of Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton, who have been together for 39 years. The couple decided to leave Virginia after the July 2004 passage of legislation restricting their rights as a same-sex couple. “I was so moved when I knew they were leaving, I knew I had to do something,” Moe said.

After Kenny was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in 2001, the couple made sure they had the power to deal with each other’s medical and legal affairs. But the 2004 law prohibiting any “arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage” is so broadly worded that it could supersede contracts such as powers of attorney, property rights, and medical directives. Kenny and Middleton decided to leave Virginia rather than risk their contracts being challenged.

The premiere of Moe’s documentary drew the largest crowd the church had ever held. “The atmosphere was so supportive and emotional,” Moe said. It validated the couple’s decision to share their story.

The film DVD and a study guide will be available in all districts.

Clarification 12.2.05: The DVD is available for sale from filmmaker Suzanne Moe's website, but is not available directly from UUA district offices. The study guide is available from the UUA website. See sidebar for direct links.

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