Gay Issues

Arkansas Paper Refuses to Include Gay Partner in Obituary

| by GLAAD

NEW YORK --- The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR) in calling for The Batesville Daily Guard, an Arkansas newspaper, to apologize to Terrance James and revise their obituary policy.

GLAAD launched an online action today, calling on  community members and allies to contact the Guard to demand an apology and a re-run of the obituary that includes recognition of Terrance James.

Last week, the Batesville Daily Guard insulted a local gay man by omitting mention of James in the obituary of his partner of ten years. GLAAD, HRC, local organizations and Queerty.com reached out to the paper to address the injustice.

The paper’s spokesperson, Oscar Jones, told GLAAD, “When a gay person loses their partner, the loss is no less, and they need to be treated the same.” He confirmed that the paper was in the process of re-writing the obituary policy to ensure this will never happen again. 

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The Guard then offered to print John Christopher Millican’s obituary without any edits. GLAAD agreed to pay the paper’s insertion fee, and the paper said it will donate that fee to the charity of Terrance’s choice. 

Instead of moving forward with this commitment, the paper reversed course completely and printed a full page attack against James, insisting that excluding a surviving partner of ten years from his partner’s obituary was justifiable. The paper wrote that “free obituaries do not list life partners or significant others, nor does it list in-laws or ex-spouses” and that they do “not owe Mr. James a free obituary or an apology.”

Last week, the HRC launched an online petition and took out a full page ad in Friday’s Guard, calling on the paper to change their policy. The Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR) has been on this issue since day one and has instituted a ground campaign of outreach to the paper to encourage changing the policy.

“When someone is mourning the loss of the most important person in their life, it only adds to the immense pain to have a newspaper edit away your very existence and effectively erase the years of love, struggle, and good times,” said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. “The Guard’s editorial reaction was even more hurtful and disrespectful. Now is the time for an apology and for policies to ensure this never happens again.”