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News Briefing

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Appeal filed in Schaefer case

An appeal has been filed pertaining to last month’s reinstatement of the Rev. Frank Schaefer.

Schaefer broke United Methodist Church rules in 2007 by officiating his son’s same-sex wedding. He was defrocked in December after refusing to promise not to perform another same-sex marriage, but in June was reinstated by an appellate panel, which noted it was unjust to punish him for potential future action.

But earlier this month, Schaefer’s local prosecutor, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, filed an appeal with the church’s Judicial Council.

The Judicial Council, the church’s highest judicial body, is expected to consider the case in October.

Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church issued this statement: “I am not allowed to interfere with Dr. Fisher’s decision to appeal. I continue to call urgently for collective prayer that the church might show wisdom and Christ-like compassion for all. I pray God may show mercy on us all, as we seek in our different ways to know and to do God’s will in a resolute spirit of love — both a love for God’s law and a love for one another, as Jesus Christ commands us.”

Schaefer expressed disappointment with Fisher’s decision to appeal but said, “it does not come as a surprise given the fact that my case has been highly politicized within the United Methodist Church.”

“Should the Judicial Council decide to pursue the appeal,” he added, “I sincerely hope and pray the council will keep our church’s diversity in mind — especially our LGBTQ community and their relatives and friends — as they deliberate.”

Schaefer is ministering in Santa Barbara, Calif.

LGBTEI backs Nizah probe

The LGBT Elder Initiative, a local advocacy, information, education and referral group, recently endorsed a state probe of the Nizah Morris case.

Morris, a transgender woman, became a homicide victim in 2002, shortly after entering a police vehicle for a courtesy ride. Citing an “appalling” investigation, the city’s Police Advisory Commission recommended state and federal probes.

“Despite the progress we have made, the long and shameful epidemic of violence against members of the LGBT communities continues to grow,” said EI chair Heshie Zinman. “The lack of justice in so many cases, the unanswered questions, the seeming lack of concern on the part of authorities, fuels the epidemic. That is why the LGBT Elder Initiative has joined the chorus of voices asking Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane to open an investigation to find the answers in the case of the death of Nizah Morris. The violence will only end when the authorities take action and justice is served.”

Deadline set in Milano case

Bucks County prosecutors will have until Sept. 5 to reply to an 88-page brief that seeks freedom for Frank R. Chester, convicted of killing gay artist Anthony Milano.

Prosecutors were supposed to reply to Chester’s brief by Aug. 6 but requested the extension due to a heavy work schedule and other commitments. Their request was granted by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on July 17.

In 1988, Chester and Richard R. Laird were convicted of killing Milano in a wooded area in Tullytown, after meeting at a nearby tavern.

But Chester claims his trial attorney was so dysfunctional, he had legal representation in name only. He wants all of his convictions voided in the grisly slaying.

Both Laird and Chester are on death row.

— Tim Cwiek

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