Lesbian Couple, Turned Away From Justin Chapel, Exchange Vows At Cathedral of Hope

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After they were turned away from a private wedding venue in Justin, north of Fort Worth, because of their sexual orientation, Tina Shaft and Tiffany Fenimore got married Friday at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. In a ceremony that featured two brides, two bouquets and music from The Pretenders, Shaft and Fenimore made it official -- well, as official as Texans can make it, what with gay marriage still being illegal in this state -- after nearly 10 years together. But it's not just the guv'mint that's not too keen on lesbian weddings -- the women were originally turned away from a private, non-religious wedding venue called the Country Abbey last summer.

CBS-11 and the Dallas Voice reported on the story last June. Via the Voice (CBS-11 doesn't seem to have the story online):

Local gay-rights attorney Rob Wiley told CBS 11 that the couple has no recourse except to find another venue, because there is no prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

CBS 11 reports that the owner of the Country Abbey refused to be interviewed on camera about why she won't let same-sex couples pay the roughly $2,000 booking fee for the Country Abbey (which, according to the website, doesn't include catering).

Shaft said that she'd e-mailed a number of venues, but most never even wrote her back. The Country Abbey did, however, "take the time," she said, to tell her they didn't allow gay weddings. Word got out when Shaft left comments online at CBS and elsewhere advising other couples not to patronize anti-gay venues, and the Cathedral of Hope and other local Dallas businesses came together to donate the chapel and services to the couple so they could wed -- with their three children looking on.

"I want people to see we're just like everybody else," Shaft told me in a phone interview after the service, which brought out video and still photographers from a number of news outlets. Shaft admitted that the media aspect was stressful -- especially since she felt like some news outlets were a little hostile.

"One guy asked us what we were trying to prove," she recalls. "What are we trying to prove? We're just trying to get married!"

Shaft and Fenimore -- soon to be Shaft-Fenimore and Fenimore -- were married in the Philip Johnson-designed Interfaith Peace Chapel. "It was beautiful," Shaft says. "I never imagined we could get married in a church."

The couple met more than a decade ago, when Shaft was still married and had not yet come out. "[Fenimore] was there when my baby was a baby," remembers Shaft, and their friendship eventually grew into more. Today, Shaft is studying for a criminal justice degree while Fenimore works as a bartender. "She is wonderful and works while I go to school," says Shaft.

The wedding featured the couple's daughters and their best friend. Both brides were walked down the aisle by their parents. The ceremony was officiated by Christopher Thomas, who quoted Ruth 1:16 -- the "wither thou goest, I will go" verse -- and noted that while the passage is oft-quoted at weddings, it's rarely observed that it was spoken by Ruth to a woman, Naomi.

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