By: Mark Fitzgerald
After a week of controversy on the Internet – including what the publisher called “a stream of vitriol” against the newspaper – the Omaha World-Herald announced Tuesday it will accept paid announcements of any legal marriage, including same-sex unions.
But the paper will not publish announcements of “commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions, again regardless of gender,” Publisher Terry Kroeger wrote in a column.
It was the World-Herald’s refusal to run an announcement of the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple that touched off the controversy.
“Last week, Omaha businessman Jeff Wilke called me about placing an announcement for the planned union of his daughter, Kristy, and Jessica Kitzman,” Kroeger wrote. “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.
“What has transpired over recent days has included some reasoned discussions with us about our practices, but mostly it has been a stream of vitriol against The World-Herald. Most disturbing has been an inaccurate portrayal of our overall coverage and position on the issue of same-sex marriage.”
Kroeger defended the paper’s coverage of LGBT news and features, which included commission a poll that found the majority of Omahans support either same-sex marriages or civil unions.
“This news organization is not guilty of hating gays and lesbians,” he wrote. “Should we have seen this issue more clearly? Probably. Have we been too slow in reacting to this matter? Maybe. But hateful? Never.”
Under the new policy, the paper’s “Celebrations” page will accept paid announcements of “legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage” regardless of the gender of the couple. Same-sex marriages are legal in five states and the District of Columbia.
“We understand that commitment ceremonies and similar events are indeed important for many people,” Kroeger wrote. “We are choosing to recognize licensed marriages approved by states. That is in line with the historical standard set by society in this country. If the citizens of more states approve same-sex marriage, our practice will adjust along with those changes.”