Utah Newspaper Refuses Gay Couple's Wedding Announcement

Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick were married at San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2008.  The couple rushed to get married on the first day California gay couples were legally allowed to do so – and were lucky enough to have their marriage upheld by the California Supreme Court post Proposition 8. Jones and Barrick planned to return to their hometown in Southern Utah on August 22, 2009 to have their formal wedding reception with their family and friends. Like any other happy couple, they planned to announce their reception in their local paper – both to celebrate their happiness and to make sure all their friends knew where to celebrate with them. But, their hometown paper, The Spectrum, in St. George, Utah rejected their ad. At first, the paper said they could run the announcement in the “celebrations” section of the paper – but only if there was no picture. Jones and Barrick objected to being told their picture would be excluded, and in response president and publisher Donnie Welch decided that no announcement would run at all.  He told the couple, “As our policy is to run marriage announcements recognized by Utah Law, I have made the decision to not run this announcement.” When Jones and Barrick were first married in June 2008, they received widespread media coverage, from People Magazine to the Bay Area Reporter.  They also were mentioned and pictured by USA Today – which, like The Spectrum, is owned by Gannett.  Tyler's mom created a video that shows all the media coverage. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5YHrSCsdvg[/youtube] The advertisement that Jones and Barrick submitted looked like this:
Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick

Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick

Tyler Jerome Barrick and Spencer Kent Jones
Tyler Jerome Barrick and Spencer Kent Jones will celebrate their marriage in a ceremony on September 6, 2009, at the Rio Villa Resort on the banks of the Russian River in Sonoma County, California.  An open house and reception will be held in their honor on August 22, 2009, at 7PM, at 908 Madison Heights in Washington, Utah.
Spencer is the son of Leon and Cherie Jones, currently of Stansbury Park, Utah, and formerly of St. George, Utah.  Tyler is the son of Steven and Linda Stay of Washington, Utah.
The grooms met in St. George, Utah, in 2001, while Spencer was home on winter break from Dartmouth College and Tyler was attending Dixie State College.  The couple has subsequently lived together in Washington, DC, Tokyo, Japan, and San Francisco, California.  Spencer graduated with a B.A. in government and history from Dartmouth in 2002, subsequently obtained a Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School in 2007, and currently works as a litigation associate for the international law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP in San Francisco.  Tyler graduated with a B.S. in nursing from the University of San Francisco in 2007, and he currently works as a cardiac R.N. at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco.  Tyler and Spencer were among the first dozen same-sex couples to legally obtain their marriage license in San Francisco last year, on June 17, 2008.  The couple has made their home in San Francisco, where they reside with their dog Cooper.
GLAAD reached out to Mr. Welch with concerns when we heard this story.  We shared with him a few important facts:
  • The Spectrum is a Gannett newspaper, and 85% of all Gannett newspapers that run any type of wedding announcement will, under most circumstances, run the ads of same sex couples, like Jones and Barrick.
  • GLAAD launched the Announcing Equality campaign in 2002 after working with The New York Times to open its weddings and celebrations pages to same-sex couples.In 2002, there were only 70 daily papers in the U.S. willing to print a wedding/commitment ceremony announcement for a same-sex couple. After The Kansas City Star joined the list of LGBT-inclusive papers in June of this year, this number today stands at 1,052.
  • In 2008, another paper in Utah, The Herald Journal, which has an even smaller readership than The Spectrum printed it’s first same sex wedding announcement – and faced relatively little community push back.  There were a few very vocal opponents, but overall, the decision had little-to-no business impact.
But Welch still declined to publish Jones and Barrick's announcement, telling GLAAD he was, “making a business decision." The Spectrum boasts advertising from major companies in the circular section of it’s website.  Of the 18 companies listed, 15 have non discrimination policies covering sexual orientation, 8 also include gender identity – according to HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. GLAAD's Senior Director of Media Programs, Rashad Robinson issued this statement about Welch's decision:
"We believe all couples should be able to celebrate their weddings with their local communities. What's more meaningful than a wedding-the joining of a couple in a loving commitment? We believe everyone should have this opportunity and we'll continue to work so that couples in every locality - including St. George, Utah - can share this rich part of their lives."
GLAAD encourages you – particularly those who live in Utah – to reach out to The Spectrum’s Donnie Welch, and urge him to publish Spender and Tyler’s announcement. Contact:
Donnie Welch President/Publisher, The Spectrum 435-674-6222 dwelch@thespectrum.com
Jones has also contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBT legal organization, to alert them to this incident. Executive Director Kate Kendell made a statement that "NCLR is very disturbed and disappointed to hear about the treatment that Spencer and Tyler experienced. No family or couple should be made to feel like their relationship is somehow of a lesser status simply because of their sexual orientation." Both GLAAD and NCLR will continue to keep a close eye on the situation as it develops.