By Darla Shelden
One of the many hats worn by Oklahoma City gay rights activist Bob Lemon is that of executive producer for the documentary Inlaws & Outlaws.
In the movie, filmmaker Drew Emery tells true stories of couples and singles, gay and straight, dealing with love and marriage.
Much of the impetus for the film originated in Oklahoma City.
Native Oklahoman Amy Wheeler, a field producer for Inlaws and Outlaws, invited her father, Jim, to Seattle for a screening of the movie in 2005.
A retired Methodist minister, Jim Wheeler said, “The film was more profound than I expected it to be. I could sense and feel within the audience, the power of those stories. And I thought then, that this movie needs to be out there.”
Wheeler brought the film back to Oklahoma and started showing screenings in his home, and then in several churches around Oklahoma City.
Bob Lemon, father of five, two gay and three straight, saw Inlaws & Outlaws during a screening at the Mayflower Congregational, UCC Church, where he is a member. He fell in love with the stories portrayed and strongly identified with the message of universal love.
“This movie is the best shot to influence the minds of some people that need to be changed. They need to rethink what they believe about the GLBT community,” said Lemon.
Lemon soon became involved with the True Stories Project. He sponsored the documentary’s return to Oklahoma City and put his full backing behind the film, becoming its Executive Producer.
Amy Wheeler, now executive director of Hedgebrook, a women’s writing retreat on Whidbey Island, said, “I grew up in the Methodist church in Oklahoma. So to come back and be talking to congregations in these churches that I grew up in, and to be fully out, and to be representing this film that I so believe in, and sharing that with the people of Oklahoma has been incredibly moving,”
Those simple film screenings compelled audience members to get involved to gain an even wider viewership.
Kathie McCallie, Pastor, Church of the Open Arms said, “We have been very happy to put information in our newsletter, our weekly bulletin, and through our email connections to let people know about the film.’
Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Oklahoma City Peace House, said, “I just decided that my organization was going to send a postcard to our entire database and we wanted to get it out fast.”
Jim Wheeler contacted Brian Hearn, film curator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art about Inlaws & Outlaws. Hearn was so impressed by the film, that he submitted it to the deadCenter Film Festival, where it won the 2006 Grand Jury Prize.
The film was shown again two weeks later In Bricktown for Oklahoma City’s annual Gay Pride Weekend. Two of the film’s cast, Pete-e Petersen and Jane Lighty, became the parade’s Grand Marshals.
Lemon’s generous support was instrumental to the full production of the film and the launch of the Hearts + Minds Campaign. The campaign allows the film to be more widely viewed by local congregations, schools and communities. It creates a healthy dialogue about the issues of love, and marriage, particularly gay marriage.
“If it weren’t for the backstage financial sponsorship by Bob Lemon of this documentary about gay/lesbian marriage equality it might have turned out differently. Mr. Lemon puts his money where his heart is,”said James Nimmo, board secretary of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Scott Hamilton, executive director of Cimarron Alliance in Oklahoma City said, “Inlaws & Outlaws” is appropriately named. Mr. Lemon, the film’s executive producer, may not be an outlaw, but he is certainly a renegade. He is not afraid to go against conventional wisdom in his efforts to promote equality and doesn’t mind standing alone on the side of what is right. Some folks may consider him an outlaw, but to me, Bob Lemon is a hero.
The film is dedicated to the memory of Bob’s wife, Mary Lou Lemon, who lost her life to cancer in December 2002.
“We’re about to have our 500th community screening, half of them in churches, and it’s been all over the country and abroad. We owe a great deal to Bob. He’s just done amazing things to help get the film out,” said Emery.
For more information visit www.inlawsandoutlawsfilm.com
Lemon’s role as Inlaws & Outlaws executive producer boosts film
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