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Does 'protecting marriage' mean preventing editorial freedom?

by Jeremy Hooper

Recently we told you how GLAAD is, well, glad that over 1000 of the nation's newspapers are now accepting wedding announcements from gay and lesbian couples. Then yesterday we told you about the Hallmark card company's decision to produce a line of greetings that celebrate the marriages/commitments of same-sex duos. And of course we, big fans of the concept of casual queer acceptance, were quite happy to bring you both developments on the equality landscape.

Well, unfortunately some folks are not as ready to hail the queer positivity. Like, for instance, those groups that are inclined to invoke "hell" when discussing queer identities. This from Focus on the Family:

More than 1,000 daily newspapers in the U.S. now accept gay "wedding" announcements. And Hallmark now offers greeting cards for gay "weddings."

While it's not illegal for newspapers or Hallmark to cater to the homosexual community, they are disrespecting the law in 27 states — states that have defined marriage in their constitutions as between one man and one woman.

It's entirely possible that newspaper staff has not connected the dots between having a state constitutional amendment and requests to publish same-sex 'marriage' or commitment announcements," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of Issue Analysis at Focus on the Family Action. "Readers should give publishers the benefit of the doubt unless and until they determine that the newspaper is in fact disrespecting the vote of the people and publishing such counterfeit announcements.

At that point, people need to hold the newspapers accountable."

Yea, Carrie? When voters go to the polls to inscribe bias into their state constitutions, they are also casting a vote against newspapers recognizing same-sex unions? Even though the couples being recognized might have engaged in a fully legal union (be it a marriage, civil union, or even domestic partnership), the likes of which might be fully recognized in their home state (which is not necessarily the state where the announcement runs)? Well that's certainly an interesting assessment of both the law and the press, Ms. Earll.

But consider this: I, Jeremy Hooper, am a resident of New York state. In April of 2009, I will marry my partner in California (ideally), or Massachusetts (if November goes the way of anti-equality). Now, here in NYC, my union will be fully recognized by my city and my state the moment I return home from my honeymoon. However, in the red state where spent the first 22 years of my life, where marriage equality is still just a pipe dream. If my family members who still live in that state wanted to honor my commitment, should they be denied the chance to announce my happy news? Should the editorial board of the paper on which I grew up be prevented from reporting on my fully legal union because the law in their local jurisdiction prevents marriage equality? Are they not allowed to file a report on happenings from states other than their own?

Well the truth is that OF COURSE any paper in the nation is 100% "allowed" to run same-sex announcements, and any suggestion to the contrary is a desperate, overreaching act of unfairness! When these state anti-gay measures are up for a vote, groups like Focus on the Family deny that they are about anything other than "protecting marriage" for whatever state that is on the table. However, as time goes by, it is ALWAYS revealed that they intend for each and every one of these marriage bans to be as far-reachingly gay-denying as humanly possible. And as the aura of inevitability that surrounds marriage equality grows ever-greater, so have their attempts to keep its acknowledgement restricted to only the "kooky" blue states.

In this latest example, FOF is actually suggesting that their followers call the person at their local paper who handles wedding announcements and ask them these questions:

1) Are you aware the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lists your newspaper as having a policy to publish same-sex "marriage" or commitment ceremony announcements? Is that correct?

2) If so, are you aware that our state has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman?

3) If so, how do you reconcile publishing such announcements when such unions are illegal under state law?

But the question that should really be on the table: How do groups like Focus on the Family reconcile their imperious, hetero-only worldview with a world (and media landscape) that simply does not fit their limited portrayal.

Take Action: Hallmark, Newspapers Sidestep State Marriage Amendments [FOF CitizenLink]

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Your thoughts

"If so, how do you reconcile publishing such announcements when such unions are illegal under state law?"

We like to call it the First Amendment. Ya know, that amendment which allows FOF to spread their BS as well as newspapers to print announcements of same-sex unions. FOF is free to "hold newspapers accountable" as much as they like, not that it will do them much good. Let's just say that freedom of religion isn't the only right jealously guarded by Americans.

Posted by: John | Aug 22, 2008 10:05:31 AM

They're not illegal. Not being legally recognized is not the same thing as being illegal. More accurately they'd be described as "alegal"
To my understanding a law only recognizing marriages between man and woman does not make other marriages illegal, it makes them unprotected and unrecognized. No one can or should be arrested fro performing or participating in a gay wedding.

Posted by: Jason D | Aug 22, 2008 10:25:21 AM

Good point, Jason D. I didn't even catch that FOF was explicitly calling such unions "illegal."

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 22, 2008 10:31:14 AM

Here is where we can each do a little part. When I first saw this list last year I looked up my own little town paper. It was in the NO column. So I sent a copy of the article and a ??to our editor. He got right back saying that he knew of no such policy and would write to GLAAD to be sure they knew that. Sure enough we are in YES column this year. And since I am in a Calif county where the Clerk is a bigot, I think it's a big deal.

Posted by: LOrion | Aug 22, 2008 11:04:03 AM

My local paper (Hutchinson (KS) News) wasn't on the YES list either, so I wrote a nice brief note and asked why not? They replied back within two hours and said they were in the process of revamping their policies and fees and would accept same-sex announcements on October 1.

I'll be sure to pass this along to FOF so they can inform my paper of its impending illegality.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 22, 2008 12:01:19 PM

Excellent point, Jason! I knew something sounded screwy with their use of "illegal". So then let's add "deceptive" and "ignorant" or "intentionally misleading" to describing this article.

I just checked and all the local papers in my neck of Virginia suprisingly do run these announcements. Heck, both the Washington Post AND the Washington Times do! The latter is quite surprising given how they like to use scare quotes for same-sex marriage.

Posted by: John | Aug 22, 2008 12:09:49 PM

Civil unions and same sex “marriage” is under attack everywhere and it will may not be long before Supreme Court decisions and even Constitutional amendments against them will be attempted much the way freedom of choice is being attack now. I want to tell you about one Progressive Democrat who supports civil unions/marriage according to whatever the LGBT community wants to call it.

A Progressive Democrat, Steve Harrison, running for Congress who supports LGBT causes, was endorsed by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, is facing a very tight election bid in the 13th CD (Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn) against Mike McMahon who is far more Conservative than Democrat (he sought and almost got the Conservative Party nomination – not LGBT friendly at all). Harrison needs all the help he can get to win the Democrat Primary on September 9, 2008. You can help by spreading the word to all your friends and clubs and whatever to get the vote out in this district in that primary and vote for Harrison, and/or if you have the time to volunteer. Visit his site to learn more about him at the links below.
Marriage Equality
Steve supports marriage equality for same-sex couples. Marriage entitles couples to many federal benefits not extended to same-sex couples, not even to those in legally recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships. This creates a practical inequality and societal injustice for same sex couples that must be rectified. (www.steveharrisonforcongress.com/2008/04/marriage_equality.php)

Stonewall Democrats Endorse Harrison
The Albany Project

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, a group that advocates for LGBT causes and supports candidates who are friendly to gay causes, has released their list of endorsements for the 2008 election.

The group backed Steve Harrison over Mike McMahon in NY-13. (www.steveharrisonforcongress.com/2008/07/stonewall_democrats_endorse_harrison.php)

Thank you for your time.

Posted by: GeorgeR | Aug 22, 2008 6:55:05 PM

The thought that announcements of government-unrecognized unions could evenly possibly be illegal in this country is INSANE!

A newspaper could even print announcements of events that actually ARE illegal and it would still be perfectly legal to do so. Example: "Man will shoot heroine this weekend." Really nothing to celebrate, and it's illegal, but the paper could still run this announcement all they wanted. It's called freedom of the press.

I guess the only freedom that Focus is concerned with is the "freedom" of religious groups (read: Evangelical Christianity) to use government policy to force their doctrinal beliefs onto all Americans.

Posted by: GayMormonBoy | Aug 22, 2008 7:47:16 PM

Okay, GayMormonBoy, I've gotta bust your balls a bit:

Holy shit, a "Man will shoot heroine this weekend"?! Should I alert every woman who is admired or idealized for her courage? ;-)

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 22, 2008 8:01:09 PM

Yea, Jeremy, but what if that heroine was addicted to heroin?! Nah, still pretty reprehensible either way.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Aug 22, 2008 8:58:02 PM

I expect that FOF thinks throwing the word "illegal" around will intimidate people; they've proclaimed in their snit-statement about Hallmark that the greeting card company is acknowledging something that it is "illegal in 48 states."

Unfortunately, at least a few will take the bait. We have so many people in this country convinced that a scientific theory is nothing more than a guess or wishful thinking, and there are likely to be at least a few for whom the difference between "illegal" and "not legally recognized" is, well, a bit above their mental pay scale.

Posted by: Bobs Friend | Aug 23, 2008 10:24:50 AM

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