Clearwater, FL

Married Couple and Mothers of 4 Who Met in Clearwater, FL, Bravely Face Adversity and Write Christian Children’s Book

Amanda Clark-Rudolph

Learn how Ashley and Frances DeMarcos, a happily married couple who first met in Clearwater, face adversity, why they left their Florida home for Portugal, and how they’re publishing and printing their own Christian children’s book. A huge shout out to the DeMarcos family for sharing their inspiring story with News Break.

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The DeMarcos family, Christmas 2019 (top row: Randell, Ashley, Frances, Isaiah; bottom row: Emrys, Cara)Snapshot submitted by Ashley DeMarcos

CLEARWATER, FL - Christian author of the upcoming children's book, Fruitful Friday, and mom of 4, Ashley DeMarcos, was in a long-term relationship with her high school boyfriend when she met her now-wife, Frances, in 2003 in Clearwater, FL.

"Frances was friends with my older sister," Ashley said, "and we began spending time together regularly as friends from the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2004." (At that time, Frances was 21, and Ashley was 17.)

In early 2004 after a mutual split with her boyfriend, Ashley found out she was pregnant with her son, Randell. "My sister and Frances were there when I took the pregnancy test," Ashley said, "I didn't have a driver's license yet, so Frances and my sister began taking me to my prenatal appointments."

During this time, Ashley began to develop feelings for Frances, "but because of my faith and beliefs," she confided, "I was put off and didn't want to be honest about my feelings with her or myself."

Ashley said she did a lot of praying and worrying about what her parents would think. "At that point," she said, "They didn't know about my pregnancy or my feelings for another woman," she continued, "Frances was very sweet and would text me in the mornings to see how I was feeling and ask if I needed anything for the day and would check on me later before or after work. Before long, I noticed that when I needed something, I wouldn't even bother with getting a hold of my sister anymore because I always wanted to talk to Frances."

Ashley finally worked up the nerve to tell Frances about her feelings - via text. "I was still apprehensive about my faith and how God and my parents would see me if I pursued this," she said.

When Frances wrote back and said she felt the same, the now-married couple decided to move forward - regardless of their fears.

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Frances and Ashley (pregnant with their fourth child, Isaiah) posing by the river that runs through their Portuguese villageSnapshot submitted by Ashley DeMarcos

Frances was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic elementary/middle school in New York. "She believed in God," Ashley emphasized, "but didn't believe that her relationship with God or her salvation was in trouble the way I did."

In June 2004, when Ashley was three months pregnant with Randell, they made their relationship official - despite Ashley's fears.

But it wasn't until 2014, the year that same-sex marriages became recognized nationwide, that the pair married.

"I had spent years praying, reading scripture, and talking to God about why he would allow me to fall in love with someone who I was not "allowed" to love," Ashley said, "but I heard an answer in my heart one time that I have never forgotten. He said, "You would never have searched me out this long, and this hard had I not allowed it, and I knew it was true."

She added, "I may have always loved Him, but it's so easy to get comfortable and forget to include Him in your daily life. But because I was constantly calling on Him and trying to learn more and more so that I could understand my own relationship, I got to know God as the most loving and caring and accepting and beautiful father in the world."

Ashley explained, "My creator was also my biggest fan. Imagine that. So from the start, We felt a calling to raise Randell and any future children that we might have to know God and to be good and kind people."

When the couple started trying to have more children, they began gathering together at night to have family prayer before bed, morning and nightly bible studies, and putting more time into and being more intentional with their Christian faith.

The family moved to Silver Springs Shores in 2014 and lived there until moving to Portugal in 2018.

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Frances and Ashley visiting a beautiful castle in PortugalPhoto by Ashley DeMarcos

"We always dreamed of moving to Portugal, where Frances' family is from," Ashley said, "and with the heated political environment that came with the 2016 Presidential election, we decided we wanted to raise our family in a quieter, slower, and less tumultuous environment that more closely aligned with our beliefs, views, and life direction."

Portugal fit the bill since it has allowed same-sex marriage since 2010 and has ranked in the top 5 of the Global Peace Index since 2016.

After a year's worth of paperwork and waiting, the couple left relatives, friends, and their Florida home behind.

"Once arriving in Portugal, we experienced struggles and adversity," Ashley said. "These struggles were a catalyst into the greater faith-filled life that we live now."

But through it, all the DeMarcos spirits remained high.

"Luckily, we were blessed with four great kids, and so they are all fantastic at just being kind and loving."

Ashley then listed examples of adversity their family has faced in regards to their relationship and/or faith:

  • While visiting Ashley and Frances's home church, the priest was in the middle of giving a homily and poked fun at what he thought a child's home life with two mommies would look like by giving a demeaning, fake dialogue, from the kid's point of view, of how he thought their conversation would go sitting around their breakfast table.

  • Another time, Frances asked a neighbor for a job reference, and the neighbor agreed. About a week later, that neighbor called her over to the yard and asked Frances point-blank, "Are you a lesbian?" Frances told her that she had been in a relationship with Ashley for many years and had a child together. The lady told Frances that wouldn't give a positive recommendation, then tried to convince Frances that she should leave Randell and Ashley because they were sinning.

  • One more example (of unfortunately many) was when the DeMarcos started regularly attending a local church after buying their home in the Shores. "We were surprised to receive an invitation to meet with one of the pastors after filling out a card expressing our interest in joining the church as members," Ashley shared. At the meeting, they said that if the couple insisted on staying together, they needed to do so only as best friends. "They then informed us that their church's belief was that marriage was only between a man and woman, so in our situation, they would not be able to extend church membership to us but that "they loved us and would welcome us at church anytime we came."
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The DeMarcos Family celebrating Thanksgiving day and Randell's 16th birthday together in 2020Snapshot submitted by Ashley DeMarcos

As happy as the DeMarcos are in Portugal, they have faced adversity there, too.

"We faced numerous roadblocks and resistance when trying to register our children for their Portuguese citizenship, which they are entitled to through Frances' citizenship," Ashley said. Frances is listed on all of their birth certificates and is legally their rightful second parent, yet, over two years later, they are still fighting for their rightful Portuguese citizenship.

The discrimination goes on. Ashley and Frances also faced difficulty regarding their youngest son, who was born in Portugal. Although Frances and Ashley are married and their marriage is legally registered in Portugal, when Ashley gave birth to their son, they refused to put Frances on his birth certificate.

"This was totally unexpected," Ashley said, "since same-sex marriage is legal here and our marriage is registered and was registered with the country before I became pregnant."

They even questioned Ashley's home birth (even though it was with a certified, licensed midwife) and made them resubmit paperwork three times. "I had to bring a friend to translate for multiple appointments because they would flat out refuse to speak to us," Ashley said.

"They tried to say they were not going to put my married name on our son's birth certificate," she continued, "even though it is my legal name. They refused to acknowledge that Frances was his other parent, so they did not want to give him her last name.

They said they would only give him my last name, but when my friend pushed back and pointed out that Frances' last name is my legal last name, they finally gave in while still refusing to put Frances on the birth certificate."

Once the DeMarcos' son was registered with only Ashley's name on his birth certificate, they were informed that Ashley would have to go to court and tell a Prosecutor why there was no father on their child's birth certificate.

Frances not being on his Portuguese birth certificate also meant that her name would not be put on his Consular Report of Birth Abroad, meaning that she is not legally his parent in Portugal or America now. "To be his legal second parent, she now has to adopt him," Ashley told me.

Through all of these adversities, the DeMarcos haven't given up hope. "We have continued to rely on our faith and ever-growing love for Jesus Christ to get us through some of the most difficult times in our lives," Ashley pridefully stated, then added,

"In the beginning, when we still were not as comfortable and secure in our faith, it was more difficult to see or hear negative comments about same-sex marriage/partnership, whether it was directed at us or not. As we grew in our faith, our love for each other, and love and respect for other people who may be different, we began learning more about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Gospel of Grace."

"Understanding God's undeserved and unearned favor in our lives combined with the constant study of the scriptures and praying in the spirit has allowed us to live a free and fruitful life dedicated to God and without the worry of other people's condemnation. Realizing that God loves us unconditionally and that Jesus has taken on the penalty of sin for every believer to ensure our salvation was an incredible revelation."

Ashley then emphasized, "We do not believe that our marriage is sinful, as some would claim, for several biblically-based reasons, but I understand that every believer is also a sinner and Jesus died for each one of us to live eternally, and so each one who claims Jesus as the lord is saved by their faith."

Ashley has written a children's book based on the fruits of the spirit called Fruitful Friday.

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The cover of Fruitful FridayIllustration by Kristina Sánchez Mills

The book hasn't hit the shelves yet because Frances and Ashley are in the process of creating their own publishing brand to publish Fruitful Friday and future books.

Anyone interested in checking it out can like the DeMarcos' publishing company Facebook page, Stewardship Press, and/or Ashley's author page, Ashley DeMarcos, for updates.

"Writing the book was truly an inspiration from God," Ashley humbly stated, "and his strength is surely the only thing that motivated me to get up at 6 am every morning shortly after having a baby who wasn't sleeping through the night."

The story is about a young boy named Samuel (loosely based on the DeMarcos' oldest son) and his pet dog Chuck (Chuck was Randell's dog in America which they had to re-home before moving to Portugal.)

The pair are best friends and go everywhere together. They spend one full Friday together discovering the town and hanging out with friends while The Holy Spirit quietly works away within the boy to bring the fruits of the spirit out into his everyday interactions.

"When we accept Jesus into our lives," Ashley shared, "The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us. With Him comes all of the fruits of the spirit as well, and when you open yourself up to his leading, the fruits of the spirit will manifest in your life naturally as you go about your day."

A study guide appears on each fruit of the spirit after each chapter, and the book is geared towards ages 8-12 but can be loved and enjoyed by all age groups. The illustrations, done by Kristina Sánchez Mills, are stunning and vibrant.

The DeMarcos are going through all of the legalities now of getting everything set up for their publishing brand. "Like everything business-related," Ashley shared, "it is a process, and we are learning as we go."

When they are finally set up, they will only be using Stewardship Press for publishing their own books, but as they learn more and become more experienced, they will open their doors to other Christian authors interested in publishing under their brand.

Ashley wrapped up with how she and Frances decided on their printing company's name, which perfectly summed up this brave family's story.

"It was actually Frances who decided on the name Stewardship Press based on our desire to steward all of the blessings that God has given us to the best of our human abilities and rely on Jesus to lead us every step of the way."

#HappyMothersDay #Equality #DiversityMatters

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he family posing in front of a cliffside viewing of the Portuguese countrysideSnapshot submitted by Ashley DeMarcos

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Hi, I'm Amanda - a freelancing mama who writes about family, travel, holidays, and more! In addition to freelancing it up, I'm a Content Coordinator for neighborhood magazines. My favorite pastimes: Writing, slurping lattes, and playing freeze tag with my two sons.

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