The Batesville Daily Guard is now retracting commitments made yesterday to GLAAD by its spokesman to revisit its policies and to apologize to Terrance James, the gay man whom it had edited out of his partner’s obituary, and instead has insulted him by issuing a highly defamatory editorial in today's paper.
Today, the paper has completely hardened on that stance, insisting that excluding a surviving partner of ten years is justifiable. At GLAAD, we completely disagree. Excluding a grieving partner from recognition is cruel and insensitive. It’s wrong.
GLAAD got involved on Wednesday, after reading about the incident on Queerty. That afternoon, we contacted the Guard’s spokesperson/attorney Oscar Jones to see what could be done, and he expressed what we understood to be sincere sympathy. He offered us a direct promise that the policy was in the process of changing, and the paper would meet next week to formalize changes to recognize surviving partners without a marriage certificate. He also expressed an interest in apologizing to Terrance James directly. On Thursday, we reached out to Terrance and told him what Oscar, acting as the paper’s spokesperson, told us. Terrance said he would like to hear from the paper, so we called Oscar to pass along his contact information. At this point, Oscar offered to run a paid obituary, written however Terrance would like it written, and said the paper would donate the fee for the obituary to the charity of Terrance’s choosing, in the memory of his partner. We offered to pay for the obituary.
Yesterday, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) launched an online petition and took out a full page ad today in the Daily Guard, calling on the paper to change their policy.
The folks at The Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR) have been on this issue and have instituted a ground campaign of aggressive outreach to the paper to encourage changing the policy.
Today’s paper, which also included the HRC ad, contained an editorial that concluded, “The Guard does not owe Mr. James a free obituary or an apology.”
Now the paper has not only backtracked on the promises their spokesman and attorney made to us just yesterday, they’ve dug in their heels even deeper. And rather than printing a respectful obituary as promised, the paper is using its pages to insult Terrance, insinuating that he’s a liar with an “AGENDA” (their scare-bolding and capitalization) in an announcement.
The Batesville Guard has gone from insensitive to downright mean-spirited and repugnant.
We encourage people to join us, HRC and CAR in calling on the Guard to correct its policy and to use its pages to make things right – not to make things worse.
The representations of the Guard to GLAAD by phone, which we reported on yesterday, stand in stark contrast to the actions that they’ve taken subsequently.
Please contact the publisher and let her know that the paper does in fact owe Mr. James an apology, and should re-run the obituary, including recognition of the surviving partner:
Pat Jones, 870-793-2383, firstname.lastname@example.org