By Tara Malone -
On the eve of Valentine's Day, Helen Moshak pinned rainbow ribbons to her white knit cap and returned to the Roman Catholic Church she left five years ago, dismayed by its opposition to gay marriage when two of her three children are gay.
The 76-year-old Skokie woman did not step foot inside Holy Name Cathedral, the storied seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.
Nor did she join in the picket line of about 60 men and women — her son Damian Moshak and his partner among them — protesting the Catholic Church's stance on gay marriage and other stances they see as unjust to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Rather, Moshak stood across the street from the downtown cathedral and held a sign that read: "Catholic parents of gay kids know that all are equal before God."
"I feel a bit shy. But then again, it's the right thing to do," Moshak said.
The protest, called a Freedom to Marry Day, marked the second year that gay rights activists gathered outside the cathedral around Valentine's Day to champion gay rights and target the Catholic Church.
"If we're going to win marriage equality within this state, we'll have to be out in the streets like we are today," said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, which helped organize the protest.
Theirs were not the only signs on display as parishioners skirted picket lines on their way to worship.
About a half-dozen people held placards that signaled opposition to same-sex marriage on the steps of the cathedral. Others with a ministry group sported T-shirts that read: "Love is the answer."
"This was an opportunity to stand up for the faith," Pat Peterson said. "I came because I support Cardinal (Francis) George."
The cardinal, along with the Catholic Conference of Illinois, opposed recent state legislation that legalized civil unions between gay and lesbian people. The measure takes effect June 1.
While he was not in town to attend Sunday Mass, George acknowledged in a statement that these are deeply felt, personal issues on all sides.
But he also said: "No matter the issue, Catholics should be able to worship in peace, without fear of harassment."
In a recent interview, George said the archdiocese asked its lawyers and insurance experts to study the consequences of the new law.
"There is a real difference between the sexual relationships of two men or two women and the sexual relationships based on the complementarity of man and woman who assure the future of … family," George said. "Quite apart from the morality of it, it's apples and oranges. It's not the same. Somehow the law should respect that difference."