Same-sex union notices urged

Governor asks Md. papers to publish announcements

Letters to Sun, Post, Capital

January 03, 2003|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a staunch supporter of gay rights throughout his term in office, is asking Maryland's major newspapers to consider running announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies alongside traditional wedding announcements.

In letters sent to editors at The Sun, The Washington Post and the Capital in Annapolis yesterday, the departing Democratic governor encouraged the papers to join other major dailies across the country that have begun publishing proclamations from gay and lesbian couples.

The New York Times began the policy in September and others - including The Boston Globe, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Charlotte Observer - have since made similar announcements.

"Maryland has a rich tradition of justice and fairness," he wrote. "Including same-sex civil commitment ceremony announcements alongside announcements of heterosexual weddings is just and fair."

Glendening made passage of a gay rights measure one of his top legislative priorities in 2001. He frequently spoke of his brother Bruce, who died of AIDS after a 19-year Air Force career during which he could not reveal his sexual orientation for fear of being discharged.

Glendening's eight years in office end Jan. 15 when Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. takes over.

The Post, under its policy, has allowed paid announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies on its Friday "Celebrations" page for about three years, said spokeswoman Lisa Bolton. Weddings run on Wednesdays.

But the Post has not run any notices of gay or lesbian unions, she said. "No one has chosen to be published," she said.

The Sun's wedding announcements were, until this week, run for free in its Sunday editions. Stephen R. Proctor, deputy managing editor for features and sports, said that about four years ago, a gay couple requested their announcement be run in the paper. The editor was inclined to run the item, Proctor said, but the couple withdrew their request.

As of this week, The Sun's advertising department will charge for wedding announcements.

"To date, we have not received any requests" for commitment ceremony announcements, said Lenora Howze, the paper's vice president for advertising. "When we do, we're willing to look at what our policy should be on the matter."

David M. Smith, spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay advocacy organization, said he isn't surprised that Glendening is the one pushing for the change, because he has been such a friend to the gay and lesbian community.

"The governor's support for it is certainly lauded," he said. "It's our hope The Sun and The Washington Post will take note."

Douglas P. Stiegler of Randallstown, executive director of the Family Protection Lobby, said he was disappointed by the governor's suggestion.

"Good grief," he said. "It would do Maryland's families much better if Governor Glendening would just go away and not continue to harass families in Maryland."

If The Sun or Post were to publish same-sex announcements, he said, "I would do everything I could to alert the public to discourage the reading of the newspaper. It's just beyond the pale of normal society."

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