David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

OPINION: New Hampshire Newspaper Refuses to Print Legal Gay Wedding Announcement

By:  David Shepherd – October 25, 2010

This is one of the rare times I will ever express my personal views on this blog.  I’m not writing this story as a gay man.  I’m writing this story as a journalist; a journalist that understands the real responsibility of the news media.

A New Hampshire newspaper is in hot water for not printing a wedding announcement for a gay couple who plan to legally wed this weekend.

CNN reports Greg Gould and Aurelio Tine asked the New Hampshire Union Leader to print their wedding announcement in their publication.  The paper refused.

In a written statement, the paper said, “This newspaper has never published wedding or engagement announcements from homosexual couples.  It would be hypocritical of us to do so, given our belief that marriage is and needs to remain a social and civil structure between men and women and our opposition to the recent state law legalizing gay marriage.”

Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire.

Gould told WMUR-TV, “I was really disappointed because the Union Leader is a big voice in the state of New Hampshire, and they seem to be so out of touch.”

Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hodes attacked the paper for its view.

“Mr. Gould and Mr. Tine will become legally married this weekend and they should have the same opportunities as everyone in New Hampshire to have their marriage publicized and recognized. The Union Leader’s disgraceful policy of exclusion harkens to a different time in this country when people were denied opportunity because of their race, religion and ethnic origin,” said Hodes in a written statement. 

On CNN’s comment page, many posted that the paper has the legal right to print whatever it wants.

Here’s the problem.  Yes, the paper has the freedom to print what it wants.  But the news media is supposed to be impartial.  In states where gay marriage is not legal, it’s understandable that media outlets wouldn’t print a gay marriage announcement.

However, in a state (like New Hampshire) where gay marriage is legal, the paper does not have the right to discriminate against citizens taking part in a legal process.  If they want to claim to be a newspaper that brings readers the unbiased news, then they do not have the right to say what should be legal and what shouldn’t be legal.  It’s the responsibility of the news media to report the truth and the facts.  The truth and the fact, in New Hampshire, is that gay marriage is legal; period.

It’s this journalist’s opinion that the newspaper is deciding for themselves what is ethical and what is not.  When journalists start making themselves out to be judge and jury, we have a real problem.

This isn’t an issue of whether gay marriage should be legal or not.  It’s an issue of a newspaper deciding for themselves what the law of the state should be. 

Yes, the newspaper has the legal right to print, or not print, whatever they want.  However, if the newspaper decides not to print the announcement of a gay marriage (which is legal in that state) they no longer have the right to call themselves impartial.  They are no longer a member of the media.  They become part of a group that prints what they think is morally correct.  In this journalist’s mind, that is a dangerous precedent.  The media should report the truth; the facts.  It is not the job of the media to report that THEY think is right.

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October 25, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Column: Do Gays Have It Better Today & Is It Enough?

Do Gays Have It Better Today & Is It Enough?

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

Editor’s Note:  This column is one reporter’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect those of WTWO-TV, NBC Universal, Nexstar Broadcasting, or any of their sponsors.  This column contains strong language and sexual material that may not be appropriate for all readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

Faggot, queer, homo:  they are words commonly used today to disparage and hurt others.  They are words that are used, not just targeting homosexuals, but anyone who is the target of bullying.  Ever hear someone say, “Oh, that’s so gay?”  But it seems America is turning a corner where, in many places, those words are no longer tolerated (much like the word nigger). 

Many Americans today, gay and straight, see those words as ignorant and closed minded.  But still, we hear it much too often on our streets, in our schools, and just about anywhere else we go in public.

 Looking back at it now, in 2010, it’s hard to believe there was a time in the United States where homosexuality was considered a mental disorder.  Gay men and women were institutionalized for the “perverted compulsions” and an employee could be fired if he or she were suspected of being homosexual.

For centuries, the gay stigma terrified so many people that coming out and living life openly gay was unsafe.  Those courageous enough to come out were often blackballed; thought of as deviants and mentally sick.  There were no laws protecting a homosexual’s rights to housing, employment, college acceptance, marriage or any other gay issue you can think of.

Matthew Shepard’s Brutal Killing Brings Gay Issues Front and Center

It wasn’t until the brutal killing of gay student Matthew Shepard in October of 1998 that gay rights issues took center stage, both in the national media and in Congress.  Shepard was kidnapped by two men in Laramie, Wyoming, tied to a fence and beaten to death because he was gay. 

Officers who responded to the crime scene later described the 21-year-old Shepard as beaten so badly; the only parts of his face not covered in blood were two streaks running down his cheeks from his eyes where he cried as he was left tied to the fence to die a long, painful death.

In the years following that horrific crime, lawmakers on both the state and federal level, have taken a more serious look at hate crime legislation as well as other gay rights issues.   

Many gay rights activists have praised the work that’s been done thus far, but many will still tell you more work must be done.

Lawrence v. Texas

Gay rights advocates claimed another victory in 2003 when the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy law in the landmark, Lawrence v. Texas case.  Before the high court made their ruling, 14 states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books.  Knowing they could no longer enforce those laws after the Supreme Court’s ruling, those states took the law off the books.

It all started on September 17, 1998.  Harris County police were called out to Lawrence’s home after a neighbor, who later admitted to police he lied, reported there was a weapon disturbance taking place there.  Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Quinn entered the apartment, gun drawn, and caught the two men having consensual anal sex. 

They were arrested, not for the erroneous report of a weapon, but for violating the state’s Homosexual Conduct Law, which prohibited anal and oral sex among people of the same sex but did not apply to those, participating in the same sexual activity, if the participants were members of the opposite sex.

The two men were arrested and each posted $200 bail after spending the night in jail.  A judge fined the two $400 dollars for their crime and were forced to pay over $100 in court costs.

The case eventually made it to the United States Supreme Court.  Their ruling made it so no other same sex couple would ever have to face that kind of discrimination again.

The most frightening, and some would say sickening, part of this is that 14 states had similar laws on the books before the high court’s ruling.

Things Get Even Better For Gay Community

Many states have debated the issue of gay marriage in recent years.  Many states passed constitutional amendments “protecting the sanctity of marriage,” ensuring marriages there stay between one man and one woman.

But 5 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) have legalized gay marriage as lawmakers in other states are hoping to do the same thing.  President Obama is against gay marriage, but believes in civil unions, which grant gay couples the same rights and benefits as “traditional marriage,” and equal rights for all Americans despite their sexual orientation.

Now, the Obama administration is renewing their vow to the gay community to pass more pro-gay laws including employment non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the controversial, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, baring gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

Allowing gays to serve openly will “hurt morale,” and “disrupt the unit,” according to many military officials.  The problem with that is that same rational was used to bar blacks from serving with whites in the early 1900’s.  The military officials were right.  It did hurt morale and disrupt the unit.  But the unit got over it and today, the thought of racially segregating the brave men and women who serve our country would be thought of as absurd and racist.

Cut the President Some Slack

MSNBC Photo

But not all homosexuals are happy with the administration’s “lack of action.”  As an openly gay man, television journalist, active member of the Episcopal Church, and partner to a wonderful man, Shawn, the gay community needs to cut President Obama some slack.

Many are angry Mr. Obama hasn’t acted on gay rights issues sooner.  When he took office, President Obama was facing huge issues that were affecting millions of Americans.  Mothers couldn’t afford to put food on the table for their families, the job market tanked, and healthcare reform was needed to ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare for themselves and their children.

The President adopted a national emergency from the previous administration and, in times of such an emergency, social issues need to take a backseat until the devastating problems plaguing our country improve.  Yes, Shawn and I would love to get married, but I can’t justify fast-tracking my social agenda while children are starving and can’t see a doctor because their parents can’t afford it.

As the economy improves and healthcare reform moves forward, Mr. Obama is now making gay rights a priority.  He’s fulfilling his promise and he started as soon as he was responsibly able.  If you expect anything else from the President of the United States, you are kidding yourself.

We are very lucky to have such a progressive President (whether you subscribe to his politics or not) and, quite frankly, he may be the most pro-gay person we will see in the White House for a long time.

Moving Forward and My Prayer

Americans are becoming more accepting of gay issues and homosexuals today have it much better than they did just a few years ago.  That said, yes, there is more work to do.  I’m not an activist by any means, I’m a journalist. 

It’s my hope and prayer that there will be a day where every couple is able to express their love for one another through marriage, gay or straight.  I pray to see a day where our schools crack down on bullying and harassment of all students, no matter what their sexual orientation. 

Progress comes in painfully slow increments.  The only thing we can do, as a society, is continue to love one another with all that we have, fight to ensure all Americans have equal rights, and pray the day will come when we can all join hands together, despite race, sexual orientation, gender or religion, as one people; all children of God.

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June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment