UPDATED: Parents use Facebook to fight Omaha World-Herald over denial of same-sex wedding announcement
Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH
Jeff and Heidi Wilke have a bone to pick with the Omaha World-Herald. It seems the Wilkes attempted to purchase a wedding announcement for their lesbian daughter's wedding and were flatly rejected by the paper's publisher personally.
The proud parents aren't taking the rejection lying down -- instead they have launched a Facebook group to take on their local newspaper. The group's profile description reads:
Our daughter Kristin Wilke will wed Jessica Kitzman August 20, 2011, in Northern Minnesota. We are so proud we asked to buy an announcement ad in the Omaha World Herald to share our glorious news with our friends. I am disgusted to say that the publisher himself, Terry Kroeger, called me personally to say same-gender couples are not allowed to buy announcements in the Omaha World Herald. Please call 402-444-1328 or write firstname.lastname@example.org if this action disgusts you as it does us. Over 1500 papers sell such ads in the US. Including the NYT.
A note from Kristy and Jessica:
Since starting this group, we have realized that this is now an issue much bigger than the two of us. We have heard from numerous couples who have experienced the same discriminatory policies of the OWH. Moving forward, please understand that this effort is for ALL same-gender couples seeking this right - not just our family. In that light, we ask that you keep this a positive pursuit for change, and not a personal attack on any one member of the OWH. This is about changing a policy - not destroying an organization.
Thank you for your support. We look forward to continuing this fight for equality with you!
Kristy and Jessica
Thus far the Facebook group has more than 2,250 members.
Last year a male couple was similarly rejected. The Reader reported at the time:
Marc Volenec and Peter Hamel's marriage began with a fairly typical wedding story. They had the cake, photographs, a picturesque ceremony by the ocean and a reception packed with friends and family. Everything went smoothly until the relatively minor task of posting their announcement in the daily newspaper.
Volenec said that when he called the Omaha World-Herald to post the announcement, an advertising manager told him the publication would not print announcements of same-sex marriages because they didn't want to offend subscribers or advertisers; to which Volenec replied "Well, I've been subscribing for 12 years."
"As a business decision, the Omaha World-Herald does not print same-sex marriage announcements." company spokesperson Joel Long told The Reader. He said the company's decision is not based on Nebraska's law banning gay marriage or a specific corporate policy. "We decided we're not going to do it."
What do you think? Should newspapers be in the business of deciding who gets to announce their nuptials and who doesn't?
UPDATE: World-Herald will print announcements for same-sex "legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage"
Facing mounting criticism over his decision to refuse printing a same-sex wedding announcement, Omaha World-Herald publisher Terry Kroeger announced this afternoon a change to his newspaper's policy on the issue:
There has been quite a lot written online recently about a practice of this news organization to not accept same-sex marriage announcements.
Today we are changing that practice and setting the record straight on our approach generally toward gay and lesbian issues.
The "Celebrations" page of the Omaha World-Herald has provided a place to buy space to celebrate weddings, engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. It will continue to be just that. Celebrations announcements regarding legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage will be welcomed, regardless of the genders of the couple. We will not run announcements regarding commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions, again regardless of gender.
Some will criticize this action because they would prefer that same-sex announcements not appear in their newspaper. Others will say it doesn't go far enough. Our sense is that this change will provide for a public "celebration" of important milestones in the lives of people who take the significant steps toward legally sanctioned marriage. Iowa and four other states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. We will publish Celebrations announcements of marriages from those jurisdictions.
Last week, Omaha businessman Jeff Wilke called me about placing an announcement for the planned union of his daughter, Kristy, and Jessica Kitzman. Unfortunately, the conversation ended before we had a chance to fully discuss the matter. Instead, the matter went public on Facebook and generated a firestorm among folks who care passionately about the issue.
So, given that Kristy and Jessica's plans were the genesis of this controversy, let me pause here to congratulate them on their plans. Kristy, Jessica: I wish you a long and happy life together, and congratulate you and your families.