Story for Father's Day: Pastor Jeff Ziegler and Scott Thayer
Jeff Ziegler never thought he'd be a pastor, nor did he think he’d have children. Now, Pastor Ziegler and his partner, Scott Thayer, live in New Jersey with their two adopted children, Mark and Quan. Jeff and Scott met in July 1998, shortly after Jeff registered as a foster parent. Jeff often quips that, “Hi, I’m a pastor and foster parent” is not a phrase commonly uttered on a first date. That phrase did not deter Scott, and the two men quickly grew closer as Jeff welcomed his first foster child into his home that same year. Soon they were living together as Daddy Jeff and Daddy Scott, and Jeff was thrilled with their new titles.
In addition to fatherhood and his vocation as a Lutheran pastor, Jeff is on the board of Garden State Equality, an LGBT advocacy organization in New Jersey. In 2008, Jeff testified before the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, saying, “Scott and I had a church service where we made promises to one another before God and gathered friends; to love each other, to care for each other, to be committed to each other…And so the language we choose to use is that, yes, we are married.” Although they are still seeking the same protections afforded to legally married couples, Jeff and Scott’s love for each other unites them as a family. Jeff also knows that obtaining marriage equality means as much to him and Scott as it does to their children, who want their dads to be treated the same as everyone else.
Over the years, Scott and Jeff have fostered six children, two of which they were able to jointly adopt in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Adoption was not a smooth process, as Jeff recalls their first experience in the court room when a judge, after doing several other adoptions that day, refused to do to the same for him and Scott. Yet they overcame this obstacle, and Jeff says that he and Scott feel truly blessed to have Mark, 14, and Quan, 12, in their lives. The two fathers strive to be advocates for their children, and Jeff was recently elected Vice President of the Stratford Board of Education. Jeff emphasized that, in all they do, he and Scott prioritize being available for their sons. GLAAD wishes Scott and Jeff a very Happy Father’s Day!