NH Newspaper Publishes Gay Wedding Announcement

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 11:25 AM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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New Hampshire's largest newspaper made headlines last weekend when it featured the marriage of a gay couple on its social announcements page, an apparent reversal of a four-year prohibition on same-sex wedding announcements, media blogger  Jim Romenesko reports.

With no fanfare, The Manchester Union-Leader included on its Aug. Announcements page the marriage of Peter Richard and Dana Dexter in "a double-ring ceremony performed by Tanya Frost at Villa Mandarinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico."

Has the Union-Leader changed its policy?

"Social announcements are now paid submissions, no longer an editorial call. This happened three or four years ago. The same-sex announcement to which you refer may have been the first one submitted since the change," publisher Joe McQuaid said in a statement to JimRomesko.com.

In 2010, McQuaid rebuffed public calls for the Union-Leader to allow gay marriage announcements saying that the paper retained the Constitutional right to print what it wanted regardless of any changes to the state's marriage laws, reported The Concord Monitor.

"While the law sanctions gay marriage, it neither demands that churches perform them or that our First Amendment right to choose what we print be suspended. In accordance with that right, we continue our longstanding policy of printing letters to the editor from New Hampshire citizens, whether or not they agree with us," McQuaid said.

In 2009, New Hampshire became the sixth state to permit gay couples to wed when then-Gov. John Lynch signed legislation ending prohibitions on such unions.

An attempt to overturn gay marriage failed in 2012 after the state's House of Representatives voted 211-116 to kill a proposal.

The controversy surrounding the Union-Leader's decision even became a campaign issue when Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hodes challenged his opponent, Kelly Ayotte, to denounce the newspaper. Ayotte, who defeated Hodes to become senator, refused to do so, asserting government had no business interfering with the press, according to The Monitor.

In August 2002, The New York Times became one of the first major newspapers to permit announcements of same-sex marriages.

Executive Editor Howell Raines said the change was to "acknowledge the newsworthiness of a growing and visible trend in society toward public celebrations of commitment by gay and lesbian couples — celebrations important to many of our readers, their families and their friends."

He added that the Times' Styles pages "will treat same-sex celebrations as a discreet phenomenon meriting coverage in their own right."

Other newspapers also have reversed previous bans on posting same-sex wedding announcements. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota, made the switch after controversy erupted when the paper rejected a request to publish an announcement from Fargo residents Allison Johnson, 31, and her fiancee, 27-year-old Kelsey Smith, CNN reported.

Editor Matt Von Pinnon announced the newspaper would only publish announcements for marriages conducted in states that recognize gay marriage, but would not publish announcements for civil unions or commitment ceremonies.

"We report on many, many things that we neither endorse nor condemn. That's the nature of news. Some people would like us to deny that gay marriage is legally recognized in several states and countries. To not recognize that fact is to deny or distort the truth, something we're not willing to do," Pinnon told CNN.

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