"Love Free or Die," the documentary film about Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in a major Protestant denomination, has been denied the "family approved" seal by the Dove Foundation, one of the biggest family movie and video review websites on the Internet.
"There are not many people who take middle ground when it comes to the debate on homosexuality and its place in the church. Although conservative voices speak up in this documentary, it is slanted toward the acceptance of gay leaders in the church, a stand which many of our Dove conservative viewers will have a hard time swallowing," Dove explained in its review of the movie, which runs at 82 minutes and won the "Special Jury Prize for an Agent of Change" at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The film chronicles the now retired bishop's life and challenges. The synopsis states: "Gene Robinson confronts those who use religion as an instrument of oppression, and claims a place in the church and society, not just for LGBT people, but for all."
Robinson, who served at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Louisville, Ky., during his priesthood, made history in 2004 when he was ordained as the first openly gay bishop in The Episcopal Church. His consecration widened rifts within the worldwide Anglican Communion of which The Episcopal Church is a part of as conservative Anglicans reaffirmed their stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture. Robinson, who is married to his male partner, has insisted that God accepts all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Dove rates films based on how severe the subject matter is when it comes to sex, nudity, violence, drugs, language, and controversial themes. And while "Love Free or Die," directed by Sandra Itkoff, scored middle-of-the-line ratings in most of these categories, it crossed the line when it came to sex and controversy, the review website suggests.
"Despite Gene Robinson's likable personality, this DVD shows he and his 'partner' Mark share a quick kiss, his blessing of lesbian couples, his walking hand in hand with his partner, and also a rebuke from a man while he is speaking, with the man telling him to 'repent,'" Dove reviewer Edwin L. Carpenter states.
Robinson has responded to the review, arguing that the film presents a good opportunity for families to discuss such sensitive issues.
"Families deal with controversial matters all the time, about which there is more than one opinion. And every man, woman and child in America is having to deal with the issue of gay and lesbian people in the culture and in our religious institutions – whether they feel positively or negatively about it," Robinson told GLAAD.
"Why is it not 'friendly' to families to offer responsible resources to think through this important issue of our time from a Christian perspective?"
"Love Free or Die" comes at a time when the U.S. finds itself at a crossroads regarding same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing two major gay marriage cases, and the ruling in June has the potential to introduce sweeping changes to America's definition of marriage, both at the state and federal levels.
The trailer for "Love Free or Die:"