If you don’t read Utah’s local newspapers or own a TV to catch coverage from the local broadcast stations, you may have somehow missed the coverage of the most controversial classified ad of the year. Two women in a committed relationship from the Cache Valley area sent in their marriage announcement to the local newspaper, The Herald Journal.
And what an uproar has ensued on its behalf. The editors of The Herald Journal must have been holding their breaths the morning the paper was delivered. The controversial announcement’s publication was broadcast statewide, and a slew of controversial letters to the editor followed suit.
Because same-sex marriage is not recognized by the state of Utah at this time, critics of the ad have claimed it did not belong in the marriage announcement section. To post an announcement in the paper, all you must do is type it up and pay the fee. Since advertisements for glue, cars and condominiums are not affiliated with the publication, there is no reason to turn away a paying customer. But the content of ads is under the discretion of a newspaper’s editorial board. In the case of the marriage announcement, The Herald Journal‘s editorial board prepared for this situation in 2006 with a constructed policy to be used in the event of a same sex announcement submission: “Since wedding announcements are paid space in the newspaper — essentially no different than display advertisements — the newspaper management feels a responsibility to give all paying customers equal access to the service.”
More interesting is the outpouring of community insistence that the running of the announcement was offensive. KSL did a story on the ad and has received, to the point of my deadline, 667 comments of cyber tug of war. Supporters of the gay community are entreating upset readers with messages of understanding, while opponents of the ad claim morality and legality as reasons to take offense. According to a story done by The Herald Journal, four subscriptions have been canceled due to the ad.
The discussion of same-sex marriage on KSL’s comment page is frightening. The incredible amount of hate and anger over something as wholesomely intended as a wedding announcement is incomprehensible. Had this ad been placed in The Herald Journal, the outrage would likely have been the same. After careful reflection on the standardized and publicly accepted values of this community, it is certain that these deserve to be revised. The values of this community do not promote unequal rights. But in recalling the ominous proceedings involving Michael Moore, it’s clear there is more hate in the valley than we would like to admit. The inevitable outrage that would likely ensue over the ad here would have larger repercussions than it did in Logan. Sadly, there would probably be a Kay Anderson somewhere out there to buy out the newspaper and make it a more conservative version of The Mormon Times.