More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
Arkansas Supermarket Censors, Then Possibly Uncensors Elton John Cover
UPDATE: (see below for full story) Jennifer Huddleston, who took the original picture of the magazine, has now provided us with this new picture of the magazine rack, as it stands currently:
We thank Jennifer for taking this new photo - but more importanly, we thank her for taking the original one, and for speaking out against the belief that anyone would need to be "shielded" from an image of a happy family. Thanks to the power of social media, the whole world found out about what had happened at one supermarket in Arkansas. And after immense pressure from all of you, Harps made the decision to remove the "family shield" that should never have been put up in the first place.
Now, because of Harps' policy (see below) we don't know right now whether it was just at this one location or not - but hopefully Jennifer's actions will inspire more people to speak up when they see anti-gay actions like this, whether it's on TV - in a newspaper - or yes, at a local supermarket.
It all makes a difference.
By now you've probably all seen this photo, taken by Jennifer Huddleston at a Harps Supermarket in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
And what's under that "Family Shield? This.
Naturally, this photo of a smiling, happy couple and their newborn baby is hardly the type of material that ordinarily is subjected to these opaque sight-barriers at grocery stores and magazine stands. Obviously, someone felt that shoppers should not have to look at this smiling, happy couple and their newborn baby. But there were a lot of questions unanswered.
And at this point, many are still unanswered - or answered, but unconfirmed. However, we know a little more than we did before.
I spoke with Harps Corporate Executive Assistant Marty Yarborough, who told me that every Harps store is equipped with these shields and that they get put up whenever customers complain about the content of a magazine cover. She said the word from the store about this particular cover was that "several" customers had complained, so the shield went up. She also confirmed that these shields are utilized on a store-by-store basis, so the magazine would not have been covered up at any of the other Harps locations, unless customers complained there as well. She also told me that the usage of the shield on this particular cover is "in no way our opinion on this issue." She quickly added, "we do not have an opinion on this issue."
So knowing that these decisions are made on a store-by-store basis, I called the particular store in question and spoke with a very friendly employee named Brittany, who, when I asked for a manager, said she would be able to help me. She informed me that the shields had been taken down as of this morning and that this magazine is no longer covered up. I told her how great it would be if she could go over to a checkout line, snap a photo with her cell phone, and send it to me so that I could post it and say "See? All gone!"
She put me on hold, and that's when Greg picked up. Greg would not give me his last name - and when asked for it, he said "just Greg." He identified himself as the manager. When I asked Greg about the shields, he was not nearly as friendly as Brittany and refused to answer any of my questions - other than to say that he'd have to check with Marty (who I had spoken with earlier).
So here's where we stand as of now - Harps does not have an opinion on "this issue." Harps Corporate Executive Assistant Marty Yarborough says the shield was put up because some customers complained. Brittany says the shield was taken down this morning, and Greg, the manager of that store, says he can't talk to me.
Meanwhile, I informed Us Weekly about the situation, and I'm hoping to hear their thoughts as to whether they think this cover is something that children need to be "shielded" from.