A father’s love

‘An Act of Love’ documents a minister defrocked for sanctifying his gay son’s wedding

When Tim Schaefer asked his dad, Frank (a Methodist minister), to officiate at his wedding in 2007, the proud papa eagerly agreed.

It’s the kind of request that happens a lot in families with a member of the clergy. What set this request apart, however, was that Tim wanted to marry his boyfriend … long before the Supreme Court made it legal across the U.S., and certainly in contravention of church doctrine. Frank did the wedding anyway, only to be defrocked years later.

Now, a documentary tracking the Schaefers’ experience, titled An Act of Love, is making its way around festivals (It premiered in October). But Tim, who works at the inclusive Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, has arranged for two local screenings of the film: On Feb. 22 at the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth at 7 p.m. and at Royal Lane Baptist Church on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. Both will be accompanied by a post-screening discussion and are free (donations will be accepted).

We spoke with the Schaefer men about the film, their relationship and how far the church still needs to go.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


Defrocked minister Frank Schaefer, in a scene from the documentary ‘An Act or Love.’

How did this documentary come about?  Frank: In December 2013 — right after I was defrocked — [filmmaker] Scott Sheppard contacted me and offered to make a documentary based on our family’s story, especially the trial and aftermath. What moved me to work with Scott is his passion for the church — he is the son of a United Methodist minister.

Tim, you now work at Royal Lane Baptist Church; what was your own religious background like growing up?  Tim: I grew up in the United Methodist Church. As a son of the minister, I was expected to be very involved in the life of the local church, which I was. I never heard the issue of homosexuality being discussed in my local congregation — it was only when my father took me to an annual regional legislative session of the UMC that I learned of the denomination’s anti-LGBTQ positions. When the pieces of legislation dealing with gay and lesbian persons came up for debate, the language was vitriolic. Both pastors and lay representatives were saying the most horrible things about gays and lesbians.

So when did you come out to your family? What was that like?  Tim: When I was in high school, I was out to several of my friends. By my senior year, my entire school knew that I was gay, as did some members of my church. To them it was no big deal, however, I had not yet come out to my parents, because I wasn’t sure how they would react. I had shared with some of my close friends that I had struggled with my sexuality to the point of seriously considering killing myself. One of my friends told her mother, who outed me to my father over the phone, fearing that I might harm myself. I remember very vividly the conversation that followed when my father confronted me with the question of whether I was gay. After telling them my story, my parents and I sat in silence for quite a while. I think they were stunned. When my dad finally spoke, he told me that he was so hurt — not because I was gay, but because I had carried all that pain by myself and didn’t feel I could come to them for help.

Frank, what was your initial reaction when Tim asked you to perform the wedding within the church?  Frank: When Tim called me to asked me to officiate at his wedding, I didn’t even hesitate. I said: “I would be honored to do this.”  After years of affirmations, I knew I had to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, even if my career was on the line.

Tim: I was initially nervous to ask my father to perform the wedding. It was important for me to have him perform it, but I also knew the consequences he faced if it became public knowledge. In the end, I decided that it wasn’t fair to make the decision for him, so I asked him, and without hesitation he said yes.

Were you both fully aware of the controversial nature of performing a same-sex wedding in the church?  Frank: After I had agreed to perform Tim’s same-sex wedding, I came to the conclusion that I had to inform my bishop and district superintendent. I did so in writing and was surprised that I didn’t face discipline at the time of the wedding [2007]. I was equally surprised when I finally did face discipline almost six years [later].

How has your relationship changed since coming out… or since the marriage ceremony?  Frank: If anything, our relationship grew stronger.  As I went through the process parents of gays and lesbians typically face, Tim’s outing story caused me to become his cheerleader.  Most of all, I sensed that Tim needed affirmation. He needed to find and accept himself for whom God made him to be, so I showed him love and support as a father as well as a representative of the Church, which should have shown him this kind of support.

Tim: I agree. This has brought us closer. I had kept a part of myself hidden from my family for so long, that it became easier to communicate more openly with them once I was out. Since then, both of my parents have supported me wholeheartedly. My father somewhat unwittingly became a national gay rights activist as a result of the ensuing trial and defrocking, and that makes me feel extremely proud of him.

Now that same-sex marriages are the law of the land, do you feel like pioneers, trailblazers… or like martyrs for the cause?  Frank: Our story has certainly become significant within the North American church, especially United Methodist circles. A lot of our LGBTQ members and their allies have been cheering us on and have taken new hope from the uncompromising stance a father and clergy person has taken to oppose the exclusionary policies and doctrines of the church. Our story seems compelling also to many conservatives as the act of love toward my son is an undeniable expression of true family values.

Is there still a lot of “hearts and minds” work that needs to be done within the church to convince hardliners of the moral sanctity of same-sex marriage (as opposed to its legal recognition)?  Frank: Yes, unfortunately. Most religious groups are lagging behind the recent developments with regard to LGBTQ and marriage equality. There remains much work to be done and hopefully, An Act of Love can play a big part in keeping the dialogue going within the church which will eventually, no doubt, lead to more acceptance of and rights for our LGBTQ constituents.

For more information about the screenings, visit Brite.edu/an-act-or-love or EventBrite.com and search “An Act of Love.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: SCOTUS adds Friday as new opinion day

Supreme-Court(5)The U.S. Supreme Court added Friday, June 26 as a day it will release opinions in addition to Thursday, June 25 and Monday, June 29. The marriage equality decision could be released on any of those days.

Seven decisions are left to be released. Included are three widely anticipated rulings.

Obergefell v. Hodges is the marriage ruling.

Also, King v. Burwell will decide the fate of insurance subsidies in states including Texas that did not create their own exchanges.

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project will address the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which addressed racial segregation in housing. The decision will answer the question: Does the law prohibit only intentional discrimination, or does it also apply to seemingly race-neutral policies that still have the effect of harming minorities? That may affect those members of the LGBT community in Section 8 housing.

Other decisions involve Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, the possession of a short-barrelled shotgun as a felony, the EPA’s regulation of hazardous pollution from utilities and Arizona’s use of a non-partisan redistricting commission.



—  David Taffet

District judge orders Arkansas to recognize 500 marriages performed last year


Judge Wendell Griffen

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in Arkansas validated the marriage licenses issued in 2014 to 500 couples.

The licenses were issued after another judge struck down the state’s marriage ban. Arkansas was a marriage equality state for one week until the state Supreme Court halted marriage equality in the state. Unlike bans in a number of other states, including Oklahoma, the stay didn’t go to the U.S. Supreme Court and Arkansas remains one of 13 marriage-discrimination states, like Texas.

However, after this ruling, Arkansas has 500 couples married in the state. Texas only has one. That could change later this month when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Obergefell v. Hodges.

—  David Taffet

The art of accurate emailing

I’ll start by saying The Dallas Opera‘s next production, the premiere of Everest — about the fateful expedition in 1996 — sounds captivating to me. I can’t wait to see. So I was excited last week when I got an email whose subject line sounded prime for a human-interest story:

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 11.30.43 AM

“Wow!” I thought. “What are the chances?” I opened the email and this was what the inside said:

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 11.31.13 AM

 If you haven’t figured it out, January 14 is this Wednesday. “Wed,” for short, it seems (not, as I might do, “Wed.”). So no nuptials involved. I replied to the mass email thusly:

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 11.32.56 AM

 A few hours later, I got the same email, only with the following subject line:

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 11.31.36 AM

 They called me Friday to thank me for the correction, and had a good sense of humor about it. Oh, and you should go to the chat if you can. I bet it’s a great discussion … even if not romantic.

And later today, the Dallas Opera will make its season announcement for the 2015-16 season. Look back here to see what’s up this season. Hint: There’s a world premiere from a gay team and a genuine historic first in Dallas Opera’s long history.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Freedom to Marry ad featuring FWPD detectives airs

Screen shot 2015-01-05 at 11.08.13 AM

This morning, as I was rushing to get ready for the first day back at work after the New Year holiday, an ad came on TV that made me stop and listen. Right there in the middle of the morning news hours was a commercial on marriage equality in Texas.

I didn’t catch the whole commercial, so I didn’t realize until I got to work and was reading my email that the ad I had seen on TV actually featured Fort Worth Police Officer Chris Gorrie, a gay man who talks about his partner Justin and the fact that they want to be legally married in Texas. The great part, though, is that the other three people in the commercial — Monica Jackson, Jay Doshi and Allison Fincher — are straight FWPD officers who are speaking up in support of their gay colleague and his right to marry the man he loves.

Here’s a transcript of the commercial:

Chris Gorrie:  I became a police officer in 2006.
Monica Jackson:  Chris makes a sacrifice everyday along with the rest of us.
Jay Doshi:  He puts his life on the line just like I do.
Chris Gorrie:  My partner Justin and I — we live together.  Eventually one day we’d like to get married just like everybody else.
Allison Fincher:  A lot of people think gay people shouldn’t be able to get married — that makes no sense.
Chris Gorrie:  Freedom is a big deal; the freedom to marry, the freedom to say what you want to say, and the freedom to do what you want to do.
Jay Doshi:  Texans believe in freedom and liberty and part of that is to be able to marry who you love, so Chris should be able to marry whoever he loves.

The ad is part of Texas for Marriage, a joint campaign by Freedom to Marry and Equality Texas to amplify bipartisan support for marriage across the state. It is on a two-day run in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso, among other cities.

Last February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, in San Antonio, ruled that Texas’ ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. Then-Attorney General/now-Gov. Greg Abbott appealed that ruling, and a three-court panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the case — in which Plano couple Vic Holmes and Mark Pharris are co-plaintiffs with Austin lesbian couple Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon — on Friday, Jan. 9, in New Orleans.

(Dallas Voice will have special correspondents Patti Fink and Erin Moore in New Orleans Friday to report on the hearing as it happens.)

In case you miss the ad — which I saw on CBS Channel 11 — here it is, on YouTube:

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Judge won’t lift stay in Texas gay marriage case

GayTexasFlagA federal judge has declined to allow Texas same-sex couples to marry before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the case.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in February. But he stayed the ruling anticipating an appeal by Texas officials. Then–Attorney General and now Governor-elect Greg Abbott, a Republican, filed an appeal.

The Fifth Circuit has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 9 for the Texas case as well as for Mississippi and Louisiana.



—  James Russell

Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit


Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to fast-track its review of two  lawsuits challenging bans on legally recognizing same-sex marriages in Texas and Louisiana, according to numerous reports, including this one at Bilerico.com.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin, one of two gay couples challenging the ban in Texas, asked Monday that the appellate court expedite the cases because Dimetman is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they want their marriage legally recognized before the child — due next March — is born. De Leon gave birth to their first child and Dimetman had to complete a second-parent adoption to be legally recognized as that child’s parent. Unless the couple’s 2009 Massachusetts wedding is recognized in Texas before the second child is born, only Dimetman will be automatically recognized as the child’s legal parent, forcing De Leon to go through the lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption process.

De Leon and Dimetman along with Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano are the second couple in the Texas case. The two have been together for about 14 years but are waiting for Texas to legally recognize same-sex marriage before tying the knot. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in February that the Texas gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

In the second case being reviewed by the 5th Circuit, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Sept. 3 upheld the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage, the first federal judge to rule against marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

Lambda Legal joined the case as council on Oct. 7.

Just three weeks after Feldman’s ruling, Judge Edward Rubin in Louisiana’s 15th Judicial District Court ruled, in the case Constanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, that the Louisiana marriage ban is unconstitutional.

So far, since the Windsor ruling last year, no federal appellate court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage bans. On Monday, Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals on seven cases from five states, leaving appellate decisions striking down bans from the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuit Courts in place. The 9th Circuit Court struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada the next day, and on Sunday, a federal judge in Alaska — which is part of the 9th Circuit — struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Appeals are also pending in the 6th and 11th Circuit Courts. Those two and the 5th Circuit are considered the most conservative in the country and the ones most likely to rule in favor of marriage bans.

—  Tammye Nash

Another one bites the dust: 9th Circuit strikes down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada, Idaho

Nevada officials have already said they won’t appeal; no word yet from Idaho on appeal

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service


A unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Oct. 7, struck down state bans against marriage for same-sex couples in Nevada and Idaho.

But the ruling will also — if not appealed — affect bans in Ninth Circuit states with similar bans: Alaska, Arizona and Montana. That means the total count on marriage eq9th Circuituality states could well reach 35 this week.

The result of the Ninth Circuit decision, while widely expected, comes just one day after the surprise action of the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse review of appeals involving state bans in five other states across three other federal appeals circuits. That move alone meant the marriage equality state count would go from 19 to 24 and probably 30, assuming no state with a ban inside those three circuits attempts a long-shot effort to press its case to keep the ban.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision adds five more.

In the 34-page decision released Tuesday afternoon, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the state bans violate the constitutional rights to equal protection and due process “because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex, and do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard we adopted in SmithKline.

“…The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions,” wrote Reinhardt. “When we integrated our schools, education improved. When we opened our juries to women, our democracy became more vital. When we allowed lesbian and gay soldiers to serve openly in uniform, it enhanced unit cohesion. When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.”

Tara Borelli, the senior attorney for Lambda Legal that represented plaintiffs in the Nevada case, Sevcik v. Sandoval, said her group is “delighted” with the result.

Serving on the panel with Reinhardt — an appointee of President Jimmy Carter — were two other judges appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, Judge Ronald Gould and Judge Marsha Berzon.

Nevada state officials did not attempt to defend their law and are unlikely to seek an appeal from the full circuit.

Borelli said that while same-sex couples in Nevada can expect to marry soon, she noted that the court “remanded Lambda Legal’s Nevada marriage equality case to the district court for the prompt issuance of an injunction permanently enjoining the state, its political subdivisions and its officers, employees and agents, from preventing same-sex couples from marrying or denying recognition to marriages entered outside of the state.

“Same-sex couples will not be able to enforce their right to marry until that happens,” said Borelli, “but government officials in Nevada may allow same-sex couples to marry before then.”

There was no word at deadline as to whether Idaho officials, who did attempt to defend their ban in Otter v. Latta, would seek such an appeal.

“This also paves the way for victories in Arizona, Alaska and Montana,” noted Borelli, adding, however, that “further orders would need to be entered to bind the parties in those cases. But the law of the circuit is now clear.”

The opinion rejected “out of hand” an argument by defenders of the ban that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause heterosexual couples with children to conclude that a father is unnecessary.

“This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response,” wrote Reinhardt.

In another dramatic section, Reinhardt blasts defenders for claiming to care about protection of children.

“If defendants really wished to ensure that as many children as possible had married parents,” he wrote, “they would do well to rescind the right to no-fault divorce, or to divorce altogether.”

Neither state has done so, he noted.

“…In extending the benefits of marriage only to people who have the capacity to procreate, while denying those same benefits to people who already have children, Idaho and Nevada materially harm and demean same-sex couples and their children,” Reinhardt wrote. “…Classifying some families, and especially their children, as of lesser value should be repugnant to all those in this nation who profess to believe in ‘family values. In any event, Idaho and Nevada’s asserted preference for opposite-sex parents does not, under heightened scrutiny, come close to justifying unequal treatment on the basis of sexual orientation.”

A federal district court judge had upheld Nevada’s ban, but the district court in Idaho had struck that state’s ban down. Reinhardt noted that the Idaho court was influenced by the Ninth Circuit decision in SmithKline v. Abbott, which said that laws targeting gays require heightened scrutiny. That decision had not yet been issued when the Nevada court issued its decision.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash

The wingnuts speak on SCOTUS decision not to hear marriage case appeals

On Monday, Oct. 6, the national LGBT community rejoiced and wedding bells began to ring in 11 new marriage equality states when the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would not hear appeals of circuit court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in five states.

But for the right wing faction of the U.S., that ringing wasn’t wedding bells, but a death knell.


Bryan Fischer

Perhaps one of the most outrageous declarations came from Bryan Fisher, “director of issue analysis” for the so-called American Family Association. Fischer called the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the marriage appeals “the Dred Scott of gay marriage” and said that marriage equality is “as morally bankrupt and indefensible as the institution of slavery. Slavery ate away at America’s soul, and homosexual marriage will do the same thing, It is a deviant and grotesque caricature of the real thing. For this sexual debauchery to be normalized by the highest court in the land is a sign of the nation plunging headlong into a bottomless moral abyss.”

Jeremy Hooper, special projects consultant for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said that sometimes the best way to rebut what someone says is to get out of the way and just let them keep talking. So let me step aside and let the wingnuts speak. …

Right Wing Watch  rounded up responses from other wingnuts, including the Liberty Counsel, which issued a press release denouncing the Supreme Court’s “decision to watch marriage burn to ashes,” and accusing the justices of “dereliction of duty.”

Liberty Council Founder and Chairman Matt Staver declared, “Everyone will be affected by same-sex marriage because it is an intolerant agenda that will directly collide with religious freedom.”

The Family Research Council predicted that “more and more people [will] lose their livelihoods because they refuse to not just tolerate but celebrate same-sex marriage,” adding that the Supreme Court’s decision “will allow rogue lower court judges who have ignored history and true legal precedent to silence the elected representatives of the people and the voice of the people themselves by overturning state provisions on marriage. Even more alarming, lower court judges are undermining our form of government and the rights and freedoms of citizens to govern themselves. This judicially led effort to force same sex ‘marriage’ on people will have negative consequences for our republic, not only as it relates to natural marriage but also undermining the rule of and respect for law.”

FRC did not that the court’s rejection of the appeals “ensures that the debate over natural marriage will continue and the good news is that time is not on the side of those who want to redefine marriage.”

The National Organization for Marriage called for passage of a national marriage amendment: “…the only alternative to letting unelected judges impose their view of marriage on Americans across the country is to pursue a process that will allow the American people to decide for themselves what is marriage. It is critical not only to marriage but to the republican form of government in this country to amend the Constitution to reaffirm the meaning of marriage. We therefore call on the US Congress to move forward immediately to send a federal marriage amendment to the states for ratification.”

And Focus on the Family clamored that the decision will result in a “further expansion of threats to religious freedom.”

“Marriage has always been — and will always be — between a man and a woman. Ultimately, no court can change that truth,” Focus on the Family’s statement said. “So regardless of legal outcomes, we’ll continue to address the importance of one-man, one-woman marriage to families, society and especially for children who have a right to both a mother and a father. Our concern continues to be for children who deserve to grow up with both a mom and a dad, as well as for the religious freedom rights of people who strongly believe in God’s design for marriage and want to live consistently with those beliefs.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” and warned that SCOTUS will “reap a political whirlwind.” And the Florida Family Policy Council’s John Stemberger warned that the court “risks losing enormous institutional legitimacy” by ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Here’s a video of Bryan Fischer and his declaration of how SCOTUS imposed “sodomy-based marriage” on 11 states that voted against it.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Louisiana state judge says marriage ban is unconstitutional

KLFY Channel 10 News in Lafayette is reporting that Louisiana State Judge Edward Rubin has ruled that the state’s law banning same-sex gavelmarriage is unconstitutional because it violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

That’s all I can find on the ruling right now, but Rubin’s ruling is in direct contrast to a ruling earlier this month by federal Judge Martin L. C. Feldman in Louisiana that the state’s gay marriage is not unconstitutional. Feldman’s ruling on Sept. 3 is the only ruling in favor of gay marriage bans.


—  Tammye Nash