Lancaster Newspapers Inc., the publisher of three newspapers in Lancaster, PA (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster New Era and Sunday News), has made the right and important decision to become fully inclusive and recognize same-sex relationship milestones. Along with The Macon Telegraph in Georgia, the company is at least the second this week to do so.
Lancaster Newspapers' decision to change what was a discriminatory policy came, in part, as a result of significant community backlash against the company for refusing to print the engagement announcement of Jeffrey Clouser & Brent Weaver. Together seven years, Jeffrey & Brent became engaged on May 27 - "seven years to the day we met," said Brent in an interview with Lancaster Online. When they initally reached out to share their good news with the readers of Lancaster Newspapers, they were advised by Harold Miller, the company's president and CEO, that their announcement was "not consistent with prevailing community standards."
Jeffrey & Brent were surprised that the paper chose to discriminate against them and moved quickly to raise awareness of what had happened. The couple spoke with reporter Pete Muntean, who did an admirable job with this story for WGAL-8, the local NBC affiliate in Harrisburg, PA.
When readers found out about what had happened to Jeffrey & Brent, many took to Lancaster Newspapers' Facebook page to express their disdain. Some even cancelled their subscriptions in response to the company's discriminatory treatment of Jeffrey & Brent.
Shortly thereafter, the company realized that Lancaster's "prevailing community standards" were to treat all couples with the same dignity and respect. The newspaper announced that its policy would change to become fully inclusive of same-sex relationship milestones. Harold Miller cited reader response as a big catalyst for the move toward inclusivity.
"We had a lot of reaction to this...and really thought through what people were telling us," Miller said. "We think interaction with our readers is very important for this company, and we had a chance to hear what people said."
The company then issued an official statement on the matter, which reads in part:
"Engagement, marriage and anniversary announcements are meaningful expressions of love and caring and deserve to be published. We have reconsidered our previous position on this issue and we will publish all such announcements within our Celebrations pages in the Sunday News. We are publishing these announcements without passing judgment, in an effort to fully serve our community and all of our readers."
Miller personally called Jeffrey & Brent to inform them of the policy change and to apologize for the way they'd been treated.
The company's statement is not only inclusive, it's also quite moving and an incredible testament to the fact that hearts and minds can and DO change in response to dialogue. In knowing that this change was motivated, in large part, due to reader response, this policy change is also a teachable moment: positive change often takes place more quickly when communities band together and lift their collective voices in support of what is fair and equal treatment.
GLAAD applauds Lancaster Newspapers Inc. for their move to become fully inclusive, and we hope their statement in support of this decision will be an example for those newspapers that still have a ways to go. Lastly, we congratulate Jeffrey & Brent. We congratulate them not only on seven years together and their upcoming nuptionals; we also congratulate them for trusting that their relationship is a beautiful thing, and that their good news deserves to be shared just as much as anybody else's. We hope all loving and committed couples will follow their example by announcing your equality. This is often what propels our movement toward meaningful and lasting change.