Sunday, February 24, 2013

Slowly, People Come to Terms with Gay Marriage.

I've seen lately too great examples of how the country is coming to terms with gay marriage.

It'll still be controversial for awhile and many people and organizations are clearly still trying to figure out how to place it within the normal fabric of life. They have to, because that's where it seems to be headed.
The front page of the Laurel Call-Leader
in Mississippi that caused such a controversy
The process comes in fits and starts, especially in conservative parts of the country. What happened recently in Mississippi is really interesting.

In the heart of conservative Mississippi, a local paper, the Laurel Leader-Call carried a front page story recently about a same sex couple getting married there.

Yes, I know gay marriage is not legal there, but it was a commitment ceremony, basically a marriage. One of the two women has a brain tumor, the couple worried time was short so they decided to go for it.

The paper did an article on the event because it was the first time such a thing had happened around Laurel.  They used the word "historic" in the headline, because nothing like it had every happened before in Laurel.

This being a particulary conservative part of the country, many Leader-Call readers were up in arms about the article.

The paper's editor, Jim Cegielski, was fed up with some of the reaction, and wrote one of the best editorials, at least in terms of journalistic integrity, that I've seen in awhile.

(In the above link, it's a bit complicated to get to the actual excellent editorial. Go up to where it says "Page 1, scroll down to "Page 4/5" then click on the editorial you see on the upper right. That's what you want to read.)

In it, he attacked the vitriol of some of the critics. The great thing about the editorial is it was an ode to free expression, and he kept his opinion of gay marriage out of it. Read the editorial and you still will have no idea what Cegielski's opinion of gay marriage is.

What he did attack was some strange thinking going on among people who criticized the article.
One line of attack was that the paper called the marriage "Historic."

And as Cegielski pointed out, it was historic, since it was the first time it happened in Laurel, as I've noted.

The most delicious part of Cegielski's editorial was when he slammed people who worried about children who would see the gay marriage article.

"We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children."

According to media blogger Jim Romenesko, the Laurel Leader Call is now in the happy throes of a backlash against the backlash about the gay marriage story.

The paper is winning new subscribers, mostly from outside Mississippi and the Laurel area. So many people are looking at the paper's web site that it crashed late last week. (It appears to be fixed now)

All because an editor was committed to his duty to inform, no matter if his readership liked the news or not. Well played, Mr. Cegielski.

Another Case Ends Well.

There was another gay marriage incident in the media recently that ended both well and fairly for all involved.  It worked out that way because people thought with their brains and heart, and not with mindless hate and bias.

As BuzzFeed explained it, photographer Anne Almasy decided to try advertising in Wedding Unveiled magazine. She didn't want to submit a standard issue groom in tux, plastic smiling blonde bride in white photo for the ad.

Instead, she used a photo of two women marrying each other. The photo is striking, and helps show off Almasy's artistry, which of course is the point of advertising in a publication like Wedding Unveiled. You want to show off your strengths in your advertising.

Said Almasy:

The photographer's advertisement that was rejected,
then accepted by Wedding Unveiled.
"..... I wanted to publish a photo that says something about me as a photographer, about my philosophy, about my heart for photographing these momentous (and often wonderfully ridiculous) celebrations.. I chose this picture because, to me, it says love. It says home. It says joy."

The magazine's editors politely declined the ad, saying they feared peple weren't ready yet for same sex wedding photography.   

Dismayed, Almasy wrote back, in an open letter:

"I don't shoot gay weddings or straight weddings, Christian weddings or Jewish weddings, good weddings or bad weddings. I photograph PEOPLE on their wedding day.
Are there people who might have been offended or put off by this ad? I'm sure there are. But this ad wasn't for them. This ad was for people who love black and white photography; this ad was for people who love a portrait taken in a warehouse stacked with bags of coffee beans; this ad was for people who love big puffy dresses; this ad was for people who love love.

My heart breaks because you could not see that this couple's wedding portrait is every bit as beautiful and valuable as any other couple's.
My heart breaks because you could not see beyond your fear, and into the warmer, brighter future that WE are responsible for building.
Someone has to be first.
Someone has to forge ahead.
Someone has to march.
Someone has to refuse to move to the back of the bus."

There was a fair amount of hue and cry over the editorial decision not to run the ad. Then Wedding Unveiled editors Terry Ireland and Brooke Thomas thought about it some more, in light of the criticism and questions they got.

They wrote on the magazine's blog:

We hope that you will allow us the opportunity to address an important issue that has angered and disappointed many people. We are incredibly sad that same sex marriage is still an issue in our society. When we were faced with the decision of whether or not to publish Anne Almasy's advertisement, we acted in a manner that does not reflect our personal beliefs. We truly believe that all love is beautiful and that all people have the right to marry.

You might ask that if we feel that way, then why did we make this decision? Honestly, we knew that everyone would not share our belief that all people have the right to marry. The issue is very sensitive and it is also very divided. We knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we published the ad and we knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we did not. We are so sorry that we acted out of fear and uncertainty. We had never been faced with such a decision and we should have acted with our hearts.

We are two women who operate a small business that we care deeply about. We love all weddings. We love all people and would never want to anger, offend or disappoint anyone. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support for Anne. We are so sorry that we have disappointed you and we ask for your forgiveness. If Anne would still like to run her ad in Weddings Unveiled, then we would be proud to publish it.

Almasy quickly forgave the editors, congratulated them on their change of heart and submitted her advertisement.  She said:

"I cannot tell you how completely stunned, humbled and honored I am that you took teh time to truly read my letter and chose to side with your hearts. I couldn't have imagined a better outcome......I will gladly stand with you in this fight for equality, and would be thrilled to move forward with this ad in Weddings Unveiled.

All's well that ends well, at least in this case.


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