When Eric Palmer came to Augustana College four years ago, he wasn't expecting to fall in love. And he certainly wasn't expecting to be a pioneer when he requested to use the chapel to declare his devotion to his fiance. But his betrothed is Ethan Tarvin, also a senior at the liberal arts college, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. When the Rock Island, Ill., school recently decided to allow its chapel to be used for the blessings of same-sex unions, another barrier quietly fell. "I didn't have to wrestle with this. ... It was a matter of integrity," said President Steve Bahls, citing the school's anti-discrimination policy. "If you say you don't discriminate based on sexual orientation but you can't use our chapel, then you're a hypocrite." A decade ago, Bahls said he would have rejected such a request. Even if he did agree, he would have faced swarms of angry alumni — instead of the overwhelming support he received for what is believed to be the first of 26 ELCA colleges nationwide to take such a stand, he said.
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