Paul and Micha Refuse to be Uprooted from their Colorado Community, Share Their Story in the Fight Against DOMA

Paul&Michael

Paul & Micha

My name is Paul Dankers and I am from St. Croix Falls, WI.  I grew up as the fourth in a family of six children.  I was raised in a relatively fundamentalist Christian home, went to Valley Christian School, and attended the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church with my family three times a week.  I pursued music for my career, playing piano, violin, flute, and guitar as well as singing, arranging and composing.  I have a Master’s Degree in choral music education and taught in the public schools for 8 years before accepting my current job as music director at Snowmass Chapel, near Aspen, Colorado.

My husband’s name is Michael “Micha” Schoepe.  He is from Munich, Germany.  He was also raised in an Evangelical Christian home, the second of five children.  He holds degrees in Music and Theatre as well as in Marketing.  He was a professional singer with the group, vocaldente, when I met him.

It was almost four years ago exactly; the phone rang and the voice at the other end of the line belonged to John Martin Sommers.  John is a Snowmass Village resident who wrote a song for John Denver that many people will remember, “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy.”  John explained to me that “vocaldente,” a German a cappella group would be performing his popular song.  He was hoping this group could do a concert in Snowmass Village so that he could hear them sing his song.  He asked me if I would be willing to host this group’s concert at Snowmass Chapel?  I said, “You bet!”

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On our wedding night with our sisters, Lisa and Dorothea.

When vocaldente showed up at Snowmass Chapel for the concert, I enlisted Micha to help me move the altar furniture.  We would later remember that it was while carrying the altar that we fell in  “love at first sight” as we say, or “Liebe auf den ersten Blick” as they say in German.  About a month after the concert, Micha and I began an e-mail correspondence that totaled 630 pages over the course of the following year.  I did not see him again for 11 months.  It would be more than a year after our second meeting before he was able to extricate himself from vocaldente and move to the USA to be with me.

We both had a very rosy outlook about how easy it would be for him to move here.  Neither of us could have guessed how difficult it would be even for Micha to spend time with me on temporary basis.  He came here initially on a visa as a “visitor for business” that was extended so he could stay for a year.  During that time we were married in Iowa (because Colorado currently has a law on the books prohibiting same-sex marriage).  As Micha’s stay as a visitor came to an end he was able to get a trainee visa in marketing through Blue Tent Marketing in El Jebel, CO.  He is currently in the United States temporarily on that visa, which will expire in January.  All in all, we have already spent several thousand dollars trying to keep Micha here for these increments of time—money which we couldn’t afford, since until this year, Micha was not able to earn money in the USA.  Our living expenses and these visa fees all had to come out of my music director’s salary at Snowmass Chapel.  It will probably be another year or two before our finances can recover from that first year.

It would be hard to clearly explain to anybody how many ways the lack of marriage equality has hurt us in both tangible and intangible ways.  Let me begin with the tax code.  For the first year that Micha was here, I was the sole “bread winner” in our family.  I should have been able to claim Micha as a dependent on my taxes, but I was not able to do that.  Because of DOMA, I could not petition for Micha for a “green card” as my spouse.  This meant that he had to find an employment-based solution, and in this economy that is nearly impossible—even for a highly educated, highly qualified person like him.  Because Micha did not have a green card, there was no employment available to him and that cost us dearly.  People would offer him jobs, but he had to turn them down because he was not eligible to work.  When we were married, we could not have our ceremony in Colorado.  This meant that almost none of our friends could attend the ceremony and it also meant that we incurred very large travel costs that we could not afford.

We are fighting to defeat DOMA because, for us, like all married gay binational couples, everything is at stake: Micha’s visa will expire and if we run out of options.  We do not want to be forced to leave the country to stay together.  It is amazing to me how many people will ask us why we don’t just move to Germany.  I find it astonishing that this thoughtless solution seems like a viable answer to people who don’t stop to consider all of the implications:  employment, housing, possessions, friendships, language and cultural barriers and so on and so forth.  Moving to another country can be a daunting experience.  What is so frustrating is that this is a needless waste of our time and energy—who gains from our hardship? Who gains because the U.S. government refuses to recognize my legal marriage to my husband?  Nobody.

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Saying “I do” at our wedding.

I find it inconceivable that my own country values us so little that it would force us to consider finding another country in which to live, forcing me, as an American citizen, into self-exile solely because I’m gay.   I have a Master’s Degree—an investment in human collateral—with so much to contribute to my community.  I personally founded Lomira Community Theatre and the Snowmass Village Winter Concert Series.  I am the music director at Snowmass Chapel and the interim director of the Aspen Choral Society.  I have directed productions for Theatre Aspen and Aspen Community Theatre, and I have performed solo roles in numerous local groups.  Since Micha first visited America, he  has founded “Theatre Hotspot” and has appeared in numerous concerts and theatre pieces.  He also leads singing at Snowmass Chapel on a regular basis—all volunteer, since he can’t be paid.

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We just want to be together and to continue contributing to the community where we live.  We aren’t asking for “special” rights or unique consideration.  We have many hopes, dreams, and plans that we want to make, but without the stability that straight couples take for granted, reaching for those dreams is needlessly costly and complicated, and most often, out of reach. We do not want to put our lives on hold; and we should not have to wait one more day to be equal.  As the media prematurely proclaim that gay marriage has already won, the uncertainty looming on our horizon shows that until DOMA is officially off the books, we have not yet won.  By sharing our story with friends and family, we are shaping public opinion in a way that will help ensure a swift and certain end to DOMA.  Our elected officials and judiciary need to hear our voices and our stories now more than ever.  We urge you to join us by sharing our story (or by sharing your own).  We also encourage you to visit the DOMA Project to find out more ways to get involved.

4 comments


  • Max

    I feel so strongly for this couple and for all the struggle that they are facing due to the bureaucratic and convoluted system that the States has in regards to same-sex marriage.
    I am Canadian and even we have all the provisions to our favour, it’s in incredible that a great number of same sex couples still are choosing of not getting marriage to avoid being like a “heterosexual couple” and following that avenue.
    I wish for this couple and for the entire country that they cease this non-sense and give the same civil rights to all his citizens and stop this segregation, that it only promoting another black point in the American History.

    April 8, 2013
    • Max, thank you for your comment. Micha and I would hate to have to be uprooted from our community, but if we had to leave, Canada would be an awesome place to live. I have always been treated with such kindness by Canadians. Best to you!

      April 19, 2013
  • Judy Renderman

    Having been a friend and parent of one Paul Dankers high school choral students and a church friend, I find it rediculous for a couple to have to go through such trials and tribulations. Paul offers more to our society than most other ‘Americans (natural citizens or of other ethnic backgrounds). He is loving, responsible, talented, and has morals that most others don’t even start to have. Michael meets Paul’s criteria as well. Having attended their wedding was one of the most impressionable moments in my life. I was so moved to realize that two persons can love and should be able to display that love. There should be NO organization or law that prohits this Love. And this Love has the right to be nurtured with what goes with the sacrement of marriage whether they be two men, two women, or a man and a woman. Equal rights should be practiced in what we call our “FREE AMERICA”. I am a mother, a grandma, a great grandma who has dealt with a lot of change from a small community. And I am proud to say that I have two personal friends that are gay. Lets give them their freedoms.

    April 11, 2013
    • Judy, I just saw your response to our story. As always, I feel so lucky that we have been part of each other’s lives. I’ll never forget the surprise “going away” party you held at your house and ALL THAT FOOD! Again at our wedding, you and Stan showed up with the feast… This is what it means to create family–having friends who are there when you need them and who speak for you. I’m so glad that I happened to check back with this story and saw your comment! Love and hugs to you and Stan and thank you for your support!

      April 19, 2013

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.