Methodist Church suspends retired Dallas minister for performing same-sex wedding

The Rev. Bill McElvaney marries Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church on March 1. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Rev. Bill McElvaney marries Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church on March 1. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, emeritus pastor of Dallas’ Northaven’s United Methodist Church, has been suspended for marrying longtime couple Jack Evans and George Harris.

McElvaney married the couple of 53 years on March 1 at nearby Midway Hills Christian Church after announcing in January that he was taking a stand for marriage equality and “would consider it a privilege to officiate at a same-sex wedding.” Northaven’s current pastor decided not to have the ceremony take place at the church becasue of possible repercussions by the Methodist Church.

He received notice a week later from Dallas Bishop Michael McKee, notifying him of a complaint filed by the Rev. Camille Gaston.

“The UM Discipline calls for a supervisory response from the bishop,” McElvaney wrote in a post on Northaven’s website, where he announced the news. “This response is intended to be pastoral and administrative, directed toward a just resolution between the parties.”

McElvaney is not on trial for the wedding yet, but the meeting is the first step in determining how to move forward. He is suspended from clergy duties as the process unfolds. Other ministers who’ve violated the Methodist discipline and presided over same-sex weddings have been defrocked.

But McElvaney told Dallas Voice earlier this year that at 85, and who has recently undergone chemotherapy, he had nothing to lose by standing on the right side of history.

“I owe the Methodist church a lot, but what I do not owe the Methodist Church is my soul,” he said.

Read McElvaney’s statement below.

—  Anna Waugh

After 53 years, Evans and Harris pack the church for their wedding

Methodist ministers from around the Meteroplex and as far away as Austin attended the wedding of Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church.

Harris and Evans are members of Northaven United Methodist Church. The denomination does not allow same-sex weddings to be performed in their churches or Methodist ministers to perform those ceremonies.

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, who is retired, announced at Northaven on Jan. 15 that he would perform same-sex weddings.

On Saturday afternoon, McElvaney walked down the aisle but sat as he officiated, because he had a round of chemotherapy just days before. He sounded strong and brought the crowd of several hundred to their feet several times as he blessed the couple who has been together 53 years.

The issue of same-sex marriage is dividing the United Methodist Church and has heated up since the Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked last fall for performing his son’s wedding.

“It’s not my intent to politicize this marriage,” McElvaney said during the wedding. “But…”

With news cameras from most local stations at the church and four stories about the wedding in the Dallas Morning News, there was little doubt the wedding was political.

“Jack and George are challenging the United Methodist Church to become a fully inclusive church,” McElvaney said.

He said he wanted to correct any news reports that said he was a willing participant.

“I’m privileged to be part of it,” he said.

The Rev. Arthur Stewart, pastor of Midway Hills, said he got calls from other pastors of his denomination as news broke about the wedding at his church. He was told that what he was doing was a disgrace to the denomination. He answered that it would be a disgrace if he didn’t welcome the couple to his church. Midway Hill is a member of The Chistian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“When it comes to justice, our doors are always open,” Stewart said.

The Rev. Sid Hall is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin. He said he performed a number of same weddings at his church between 1992, when his church because a reconciling congregation, and 1996, when the United Methodist Church outlawed the practice. Since then, his church has performed no weddings, gay or straight.

Since then, he said, a number of same-sex weddings have been performed in churches around Texas, just nothing as open and public as this event.

Hall speculated what his and every other congregation would be without their LGBT members, gay music directors and organists.”

“Worship would suck,” Hall said.

He wouldn’t speculate on whether charges would be brought against McElvaney or not. Anyone within the denomination may file a complaint, he explained, and the local bishop may decide to elevate the complaint to charges.

Hall, however, thought there couldn’t be a worse case than this one for the church to use as an example — a pastor in his 80s undergoing chemotherapy celebrating the lives of a couple that’s been together longer than most straight couples.

McElvaney said he wouldn’t speculate about whether charges will be filed.

“It’s their business what they do,” McElvaney said. “And I’ll deal with it.”

At the reception, held at Northaven United Methodist Church, McElvaney had one wish for Harris and Evans.

“Continued joy, health and happiness,” he said.

Evans and Harris don’t think things will be much different now that they’re married. Harris said they’re not planning to have kids.

“Hell, he won’t even let me have a dog,” Harris said.

—  David Taffet

Jack and George are getting hitched

Evans.Harris

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

Jack Evans and George Harris have been together 53 years. On March 1, they’re getting married. Finally.

Evans and Harris are members of Northaven United Methodist Church but because of a ban on same-sex marriages within the denomination, their ceremony will take place at Midway Hills Christian Church. That church belongs to Disciples of Christ, which recognizes same-sex marriages.

The Rev. Bill McElvaney will preside. He’s a retired Methodist minister who served many years at Northaven and always welcomed the LGBT community when some other Methodist churches in the area didn’t.

The controversy in the Methodist Church gained national attention last fall when the Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked after a church trial that found him guilty of performing his son’s wedding.

Schaefer recently appeared in Dallas and suggested that a way to change church policy is for 1,000 ministers to perform same-sex weddings. He said his trial was budgeted at $100,000, and the church couldn’t afford to try 1,000 ministers and can’t afford to lose that many ministers.

Evans said they sent out about 100 invitations and are putting together a reception with just a few weeks’ notice. Members of Northaven stepped up to help. One is taking care of the catering, and another member is taking care of the flowers, Evans said.

“We’re doing this more to support Bill in his efforts,” Evans said. “It’s more about him than us.”

Whoever it’s about, friends will gather to celebrate the relationship of two men who have worked for equality throughout their lives and served on numerous boards in the LGBT community including Resource Center, Turtle Creek Chorale, Black Tie Dinner and, most recently, The Dallas Way.

They said they had no plans to hyphenate their names after they marry and didn’t think being married would change things too much.

Well, maybe some.

“It does get better,” Evans said. “We’re counting on that.”

—  David Taffet

GLBT Chamber announces 2012 award winners

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

George Harris and Jack Evans, the local gay couple whom David Taffet profiled on the occasion of their 50th anniversary last year, will pick up another honor later this month from the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Evans and Harris will collect the chamber’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award during the group’s seventh annual dinner, set for March 28 at the Adolphus Hotel. Others who’ll be honored at the dinner are listed below. For more information or to register for the dinner, go here.

—  John Wright

Rawlings won’t budge on marriage pledge

Dallas mayor says decision not to sign document puts him in position to advocate for LGBT equality among religious conservatives

STANDOFF  | A pro-LGBT protester, left, squares off with an anti-gay counterprotester during a “Sign the Pledge” rally organized by GetEQUAL outside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said this week that he has no plans to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage anytime soon.

But Rawlings added that he believes his decision not to sign the pledge puts him in a position to advocate on behalf of LGBT civil rights among religious conservatives in Dallas.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports legalizing same-sex marriage, has come under fire from the LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge from the national group Freedom to Marry.

Rawlings has argued that the pledge — which now bears more than 100 signatures from mayors across the country — creates a divisive and partisan social issue that falls outside the mayor’s scope.

“I’m not going to sign it at this point, and part of it is because of the reaction that I’ve gotten throughout the whole community, and I realize whether people appreciate it or not, that I’m in a very interesting position where I can convene a lot of great dialogue because of the position that I’ve taken,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice during an exclusive interview in his office on Tuesday, Jan. 31. “After thinking about it, it’s probably the best thing that I kind of stick by my position here, but also do what I said in that meeting, which is work hard to figure out how I can best help this [the LGBT] community to gain the civil rights they need.”

Rawlings was referring to a meeting last Saturday, Jan. 28, which he attended with about 25 LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas, in response to his refusal to sign the pledge.

The meeting included several longtime local same-sex couples, including Jack Evans and George Harris, and Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong.

Over the nearly two-hour meeting, which was at times heated and emotional, the couples and other LGBT leaders told Rawlings their stories and made their case as to why they feel the mayor should sign the pledge.

Outside the Resource Center following the meeting — which came the morning after about 100 LGBT protesters had gathered at City Hall — Rawlings wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would change his mind. But 72 hours later, he hadn’t budged.

“I don’t see myself changing in the short-term,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “I think if there was another movement that I could understand what it was going to accomplish better, I might join that entity. It’s not like I’m going to be anti-public on this issue, but I think this pledge itself is something that has allowed me to be a broker of discussions now in the city of Dallas. There’s some silver lining in this cloud.”

MEETING WITH LGBT LEADERS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings greets gay couple Jack Evans, left, and George Harris, who've been together more than 50 years, before Saturday's meeting at Resource Center Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Rawlings said he’s spoken to as many people who support his position as oppose it. But he acknowledged that when it comes to emails and messages on Facebook and Twitter, the vast majority have been in support of signing the pledge. Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said his office has received thousands of emails in the last two weeks.

“The other night [someone] said, ‘Thank you for not getting caught up in the hype of this thing, but I see you support marriage equality,’” Rawlings said. “And I said, ‘Yes, tell me about your position.’ And I realize there are so many people out there who really support what the LGBT community is trying to accomplish, but they are not interested in getting caught up into a polarizing movement.

“I’m very excited about the ability now to have this conversation,” he added. “I’m tired of talking about the pledge, but I think we’re just at the front end of having a conversation about LGBT civil rights.”

Rawlings has also said he wants to focus on substantive things he can accomplish as mayor to support LGBT civil rights.

But as of Tuesday, he said he hadn’t identified what those things will be. He said he plans to set up another meeting with Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, and others LGBT leaders to discuss specifics.

“There’s no question I’m a little ambivalent about my role now with the LGBT community, because I think that many people feel that I have sold them down the river, and I don’t want for political purposes to act like, ‘Oh, but I love you,’” Rawlings said. “I don’t want it to be disingenuous. I want to earn my respect in that community by putting my actions where my speech is on this.”

Rawlings said he thinks that for religious conservatives, civil marriage is secondary to the sacrament of religious marriage.

He said as mayor he wants to focus on “starting to de-mystify this for the faith-based community, and making sure we separate sacraments from civil rights.”

“If we ever are going to get to a better place, we’ve got to have room for people’s civil rights and personal religious beliefs in the same city,” he said.

“I’m a believer. I understand that tradition. I understand why that’s important. Some great conversations are starting to take place that I didn’t think I could ever have.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Rawlings says he won’t rule out signing marriage pledge after meeting with LGBT leaders

Dallsa Mayor Mike Rawlings greets gay couple Jack Evans, left, and George Harris, who've been together more than 50 years, before Saturday's meeting at Resource Center Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

After meeting privately for nearly two hours with about 25 people from the LGBT community, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Saturday afternoon refused to rule out the possibility of reversing course and signing a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

“To be a great city we have to have everybody feel a part of it,” Rawlings told a throng of news reporters as he left Resource Center Dallas, where the closed-door meeting took place. “Obviously, the LGBT community feels at times that they’re disenfranchised. They don’t have the civil rights that the rest of us have, and so it was a wonderful learning experience for me, listening to personal stories, listening to policy issues, and listening to strategies of how we can make sure this community feels better next year than it does today. The arc of history is working for the rights of this community, and we as citizens and as the City Council want to support that.”

Asked whether he might still change his mind and sign the marriage pledge, Rawlings referred to himself as “pledge-phobic.”

“I think that America’s got too many pledges out there, and I think it’s simplistic and not substantive,” he said. “I’m a mayor that wants to be substantive. I do care about the civil rights of all of our citizens and will think about how we can make Dallas a better place for that.”

Pressed for a yes-or-no answer, Rawlings said: “I’m not going to take a pledge never to sign a pledge, but I don’t like to sign pledges.”

During the meeting, Rawlings reiterated his personal support for marriage equality and again attempted to explain why he chose not to sign the pledge, unveiled last week by the national group Freedom to Marry. About 100 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, including those from all eight U.S. cities larger than Dallas.

Rawlings has come under fire from Dallas’ LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge — and for some of the language he has used to explain his rationale to the media, including repeated statements by the mayor that the issue is “irrelevant” for the city. On Friday night, about 100 people gathered outside City Hall for a protest to call on Rawlings to sign the pledge.

“I”m not trying to say it’s not a big issue because I understand that it is,” Rawlings said at the outset of Saturday’s meeting.

“If the city had the right to marry you, I would vote yes,” Rawlings told the group. “But in this case I chose to step back from the symbolism — because that’s what it was — and not get into that fray.”

In retrospect, Rawlings said, his decision not to sign the pledge may have been the right one and may have been the wrong one. But either way, he said he takes ownership for it. The mayor also said his biggest mistake was not calling Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, to discuss the issue before deciding whether to sign.

Cox, who initiated Saturday’s meeting, said afterward she was glad the community got to have an open discussion with the mayor about the issue. Cox said although it would be “incredibly powerful” for Rawlings to sign the pledge, she’s not counting on it.

“Even if he doesn’t sign the pledge, we still have business to take care of, so we have to find a way to move forward,” Cox said.

Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said after the meeting that “dialogue is always good.” But Fink added: “I think the proof’s in the pudding. We’ll see what happens going forward. I think he needs a lot of education.”

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, who organized Friday night’s rally, said his group will continue to pressure the mayor to sign the pledge.

“I think it was more double-talk,” Cates said of Rawlings’ comments during the meeting. Cates said he’s encouraging people to speak about the matter at the regular City Council meeting next Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Rawlings chats with the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, left, and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox before the meeting.

—  John Wright

LGBT history project comes into focus

The Dallas Way elects board and officers, unveils model 1-page entry

history

HISTORY BUFFS | The newly appointed board and officers of The Dallas Way are, from left, back row, Jay Forte, Mike Grossman, Stan Aten, Robert Emery, Ann Faye, Mike Anglin, Evilu Pridgeon, Bruce Monroe and Buddy Mullino; and from left, front row, Rebecca Covell, Carl Parker, George Harris and Jack Evans. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

For almost a year, members of Dallas’ LGBT community have been meeting informally to begin a project to collect and archive the community’s history.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, The Dallas Way formalized itself by electing a board of directors and officers and filing for nonprofit status.

A year ago Jack Evans, now president of The Dallas Way, and his partner George Harris celebrated their 50th anniversary. The couple told their story in the Dallas Voice and on the radio, and Evans concluded that the interest people showed was really an interest in the broader topic of Dallas LGBT history.

The Dallas Way board member Robert Emery said, “We need to focus and clarify and collect our history to strengthen our community and to be a source of inspiration for the young.”

Bruce Monroe, who served as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 1990s, created a Facebook page to promote the group and begin collecting stories.

Emery said the final account of the events, groups and people that make up Dallas LGBT history will be scholarly studies compiled and approved by a committee.

Emery’s vision for the group is that The Dallas Way will accurately tell the story of the community and be a reliable source for researchers in the future.

“If you see our stamp in an archive, we hope that will be the definitive story on that subject,” he said.

Writing the history of the community may seem like a daunting task, but Emery said each entry will be just one page.

“I’m not asking you to write a book,” Emery said. But he added that keeping some entries to one page might prove just as difficult as writing a comprehensive history.

Attorney Rebecca Covell, who was also elected to The Dallas Way’s board on Tuesday, called each entry “a gay wiki page.”

One of DGLA’s founders, Mike Anglin, produced the group’s first entry — the story of Bill Nelson. Anglin’s one-page document summarizes the contributions of the man for whom the health clinic on Cedar Springs

Road is named. But Anglin said that links in the article will refer readers to additional one-page stories — Nelson as the first openly gay man to run for Dallas city council, his Cedar Springs store Crossroads Market, how the food pantry began as a shelf in Crossroads Market and many other contributions he made to the community.

To research the story, Anglin called Nelson’s mother, Jean, who is now in her 80s and lives in Houston. She told Anglin she was relieved that he contacted her because she wanted her son’s memory preserved. She sent him boxes of photos and other memorabilia of his activist work — from a laminated copy of a Dallas Times Herald magazine cover to a mock-up of the quilt panel she designed for her son and his partner, Terry Tebedo.

Board member Stan Aten contacted the University of North Texas, which agreed to work with The Dallas Way to help archive and digitize the material.

Two high school students attended Tuesday’s meeting who are members of the Booker T. Washington and Greenhill School Gay Straight Alliances.

Booker T. senior Truett Davis said he became interested in learning about the Dallas LGBT community beyond his GSA when DGLA President Patti Fink and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox spoke at his school.

“This will give perspective to young people about what has taken place,” Davis said. “This will tell us what has taken place and help us solve problems in the future. What’s already been done is important.”
The Dallas Way meets the first Tuesday of the month in the Park Room, Park Tower Condominiums, 3310 Fairmount Street at 7 p.m. Interested community members are welcome to attend a meeting or contact the group through its Facebook page.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Project to document Dallas LGBT history begins

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

A donation of $1,000 was received to help kick off PROJECT: Dallas GLBT History, and about 20 people attended the first meeting last week.

The idea of documenting the history of the LGBT community in Dallas came from Jack Evans and George Harris earlier this year around the time they celebrated their 50th anniversary.

The focus will be on organizations and events as viewed through the experiences of individuals who were involved. The group hasn’t decided how the project will be distributed.

“It was an enthusiastic group,” said Evans. “The focus will be on the history of the community as told through the eyes of those who experienced it.”

At the next meeting the group will decide the form of the project, which will probably be some combination of video and written format. To start, they will choose about three organizations and three individuals to begin remembering and documenting.

Evans said he hopes the project will be housed at the Phil Johnson Library at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. But the video portions may also be available online.

He said that the people who attended were an incredible source of information about a variety of pieces of the Dallas LGBT community. He said Paul Williams will be invaluable in documenting the history of the Turtle Creek Chorale and several people who have been part of the Black Tie Dinner committee for years, including Mary Mallory and Robert Emery, are participating.

The next meeting will be Sept. 15 at ilume. Anyone interested in participating can contact Jack Evans and George Harris.

—  David Taffet

Group meets to document Dallas LGBT history

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

A new group will gather at Resource Center Dallas on Thursday, Aug. 25 to begin a project to document the LGBT history of Dallas.

George Harris and Jack Evans met almost a decade before the Stonewall Rebellion and want people to know they weren’t the first gay couple in Dallas. After celebrating their 50th anniversary earlier this year, they decided it was time to document the history of the LGBT community before it’s lost.

About 10 years ago, KERA produced a documentary called Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Community. Evans raved about the program but said the one-hour special only scratches the surface and there’s been no follow-up.

He said he thinks the new project will include written histories as well as video testimony. Photos of events and places of importance in the LGBT community will also be collected. But the first meeting is just to discuss what form the project will take.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Resource Center. Anyone interested in participating in the project is welcome to attend.

—  David Taffet

Seasons of LOVE • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Couples who have been together a while celebrate anniversaries in many ways

ON HIGH SEAS | George Harris, left of the man in the New York City shirt, and his partner Jack Evans, flanking on the right, marked their golden anniversary with a week-long cruise to Mexico with more than a dozen close friends.

By Jef tingley

At the risk of sounding like a song from Rent: How does a couple measure a year? It’s the question many same-sex partners are faced with when they make it past 365 days together and seek to fix that elusive date they call their “anniversary.” Was it the first glance? First date? First, uhh, encounter? Or how about the day they loaded the cats in the U-Haul and moved in together?

The answer, it seems, is yes to all of the above. But whether grand or subtle, these couples had their own reasons and ways for making their anniversaries an affair to remember.

Jack Evans and George Harris met each other on Jan. 19, 1961 at the Taboo Room, a long-defunct gay bar located on Lomo Alto Drive off Lemmon Avenue. Earlier this year, they decided to mark their golden anniversary.

“Fifty years and still goin’ strong!” Harris crows.

To celebrate, they invited a group of 16 friends to fly to Los Angeles in early April. The couple spend a day touring the city, including a trip to the Getty Museum, before they all boarded the Princess Sapphire for a one-week Mexican Riviera cruise. The adventure included stopovers in Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo.

“It was wonderful,” says Evans. “A great, harmonious, no-drama group.”

Lakewood residents David Wood and Don Hendershot met 25 years ago at a tea dance at the infamous Parliament House in Orlando, Fla.; however, it was just this year that they took their relationship to the next level, getting legally married in Boston on March 25.

It was certainly a day they’ll never forget. Taking the marriage advice of “something blue” too literally, Hendershot fell from a ladder the day before the wedding, leaving him with a broken hand and bruised ribs going into the ceremony. Major body trauma aside, the intimate wedding came off without a hitch — “except for my unexpected explosion of tears when we exchanged vows,” says Wood.

The duo credit the wedding of a younger couple they are friends with for prompting them to make the move from longtime live-ins to actual husband status. “We had been discussing how we were going to celebrate 25 years and seeing such a young couple tie the knot actually inspired us to do the same,” Wood says.

Oak Cliff residents Kathy Jack and Susie Buck also celebrated one of their anniversaries (year seven) with a wedding. As a result, the couple, now together 15 years, claims two anniversary dates for their very own. “Our anniversary is Feb. 14, which was not planned,” says Jack of the Valentine’s Day milestone. “But our wedding anniversary is Feb. 15, which was planned.” The date change was apparently made to best accommodate the schedule of the couple and their friends as they traveled to Hawaii for a destination wedding.

It was a trip they will both remember for years to come. “Maui on your wedding night. Waves crashing. Champagne. How much better can it get?” says Buck. “[We are] hoping to get away for our 20th to Greece.”

For Oak Cliff couple Todd Johnson and Tom Caraway, who will celebrate their 12-year anniversary on Nov. 3, the special day wasn’t about rushing to the altar — it was about traveling the world together.

“For our 10-year anniversary, we wanted to go someplace special,” says Johnson. “Paris kept popping up, but it seemed like such a cliché. Surely, we could be more original than that. But neither of us had ever been and it was the best decision. Paris is a very special place, my favorite city on the planet. Just strolling the streets of St. Germain, the Marais. The beauty of the city is so inspiring. I now understand why you see people making out on practically every street corner.”

PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES | Tom Caraway, pictured, and his partner Todd Johnson decided to mark their 10th anniversary with a trip to Paris, where neither had ever been. The trip included touristy things like visiting the Louvre, pictured, but also fine dining and a stop at Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit the grave of Oscar Wilde.

He’s quick to add that Parisian dining was equally as appealing a part of the trip for the self-proclaimed foodies. “[We] decided to eat our way across the city. All the bistros and patisseries offered one delicious bite after another. For our official anniversary dinner, we went to Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, considered one of the finest restaurants in the world. It was like something out of a movie: crystal chandeliers, haute couture decor, formal service but happily not stuffy. We couldn’t get over the food: guinea fowl with truffle pie, steamed langoustines, asparagus with black truffles.”

However, it’s how the couple ended the anniversary excursion that really stands out. “We visited Pere Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris. It’s the one where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. I know. A cemetery? Romantic?” says Johnson. “But there we were in this perfectly still, quiet place amid the bustle of Paris. The sun was close to setting. The gravestones cast long shadows across the lawn. There was something about the moment that was magical. You focus on the beauty and fragility of life, and it makes you thankful for everything that you have  — especially the love that you have. We took each other’s hands and strolled along the cemetery. It’s my favorite moment of the trip.”

So perhaps the folks in Rent have it right. Maybe you do measure a year in cups of coffee and sunsets? Or, maybe it’s wedding rings and graveyard strolls? Regardless of what it takes, it seems each couple has their own way of making the phrase “happy anniversary” truly mean something.

— Additional reporting by David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens