Washington Post Ombudsman Defends Photo Featuring Gay Kiss


Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander today defended a photo by staff photographer Bill O'Leary which appeared on the front page of the paper, with the following caption: "Two happy couples express their enthusiasm as the District begins taking applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples. At top are Jeremy Ames, left, and Taka Ariga. Above are Cuc Vu, left, and Gwen Migita."

Alexander said the letters expressing outrage over the photo have not stopped coming:

Many threatened to cancel their Post subscriptions, and more than two dozen did. Post circulation vice president Gregg Fernandes said that late last week 27 subscribers canceled, specifically citing the photo. In contrast, The Post reported only two cancellations immediately after last July’s ethics uproar over its ill-advised plan to sell sponsorships to off-the-record “salon” dinners at the publisher’s residence.

Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its Web site, and it warranted front-page display.

News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent D.C. Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the District. The photo of Ames and Ariga kissing simply showed joy that would be exhibited by any couple planning to wed – especially a couple who previously had been denied the legal right to marry.

There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change.

Head over to the WaPo for some additional details on the angry letters.


  1. JohnInManhattan says

    Ann Witty of Woodbridge wrote to say she had canceled the Post subscription she has held since the 1960s.

    “I am 65 years old and I realize that the world is changing rapidly – much more rapidly than I would like it to,” she e-mailed. “While I realize that the Post must report on these changes – even the ones with which I do not agree – I feel that the picture on Thursday morning was an affront to the majority of your readership. It is not something that I want coming into my home. I believe that even your editors know that it would have been better placed in the Metro section and that it would have mitigated its impact to do so.”

    Ann F Witty
    5134 Cannon Bluff Dr
    Woodbridge, VA 22192-5741
    (703) 590-5912

  2. Jake says

    Let the homophobes blood boil over!

    Yeah, a couple dozen subscription cancellations to the Post really makes a statement. LOL

    I can just hear the homophobes now.
    “Oh the humanity, what about the children!”

  3. daftpunkydavid says


    with all due respect, i think it’s irresponsible to put someone’s address up like that.

    if you disagree with what she wrote, as i’m sure most of us here do, you are free to write to the washington post or sign up for a subscription with the paper. i just don’t understand what you seek to accomplish by publishing this old lady’s address and phone number.

  4. Martin says

    Born and daftpunkydavid,
    To hell with that woman. I could care less if she warms up to us. Do you really think that’s a possibility anyway!

    I’m done giving respect to people who don’t respect me and find gay people disgusting.

    We can all learn a lesson from the young gay community who refuse to be forced into the closet by the bigots.
    Stand up people!

  5. Disgusted American says

    Meanwhile – strawn throughout the paper- constant visuals of Heterosexuals..kissing,hugging, wrking together, sex ads…the constant barage of thier heterosexuality being “shoved” down our throats!

  6. ERB says

    I agree with daftpunkydavid. What on earth will you accomplish by sending her vicious hate mail or phone calls? She is still a private citizen…and harassing her is still harassment. How could it blow up in our face? Picture the 6 o-clock news w/ a 65 year old woman, who looks like a nice grandma who presents letters and voicemails from gays being vicious and hateful. Like it or not, we are in a weaker position as a minority. Unfornately, while we feel rage, we have to kill with kindness in this instance. I’m not saying rage should never factor in, but staying away from this woman is appropriate.

  7. robert says

    Think of all the pictures of war, blood, crime and violence that have graced the front page of the paper…who canceled their subscriptions over that sort of graphic imagery that might be seen by their kids. But a (gasp) KISS??! People are nuts.

  8. says

    I added this to their comment section, though the outrage is so idiotic I felt silly even responding:

    The idea that this picture is somehow not appropriate is ludicrous. Of course it’s appropriate! Same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington DC, and getting the first legal same-sex marriage licenses was unquestionably news. So, unless these readers would also object to a similar photo of an opposite-sex couple (which hardly would be news or rare), then they have no rational argument to make. Furthermore, news is news. It’s not something every reader must agree with or approve of. The news is not created to reinforce one’s world view. It reflects world reality. Don’t like reality, don’t read newspapers or move them quickly to the recycling bin.

  9. Keith says

    If you want to know how much things have changed around this country, just know that in California the fact that DC has marriage equality barely was a blip on the news. In the recent past, this would have been splashed all over CNN, USAToday, and NYTimes, with thousands of negative, hate-filled comments. Now, hardly a mention, and it’s already out of the major news cycles. Now, that is really monumental change.

  10. JT says

    I say we all meet up in front of Ann’s house and have a giant gay snuggle! Though perhaps we should, out of good conscious, alert some EMTs to be prepared for the epic case of “the vapors” she’s bound to be struck with.

  11. Indignant says

    I agree with Disgusted American. These angry righteous bigots complain about an innocuous photo like this one yet the rest of the newspaper is FULL of images of heteros blatantly sucking face and showing affection. I’m sick and tired of heteros flaunting their lifestyle and “shoving it down our throats” !!

  12. Gregoire says

    Oh me gods, it’s also an ASIAN putting his ASIAN VIET KONG lips to the face of a LISPY PANSY. Clutch the pearls, I must gouge out my eyes with hard pieces of candy from the bottom of my purse and then write a letter to the editor post haste!

  13. Dawson says

    27 out of how many subscribe to the post?

    Is this really newsworthy to point out or are they just trying to say how risky they are? I don’t get it either way. Oh, yes 27 nut cases are going to doom the newspaper and they will have to lay off staff.

    When did the press really care if the story they did was going to offend people? If so can we say that when they report on Focus on Family that we are going to drop our subscription?

    A newspaper should be proud of the fact they take the upper ground. So again what is the point of reporting this? What are they exactly saying? That they shouldn’t report this because they are losing all 27 subscribers? Or that gay people still offend some people in Washington D.C.?

    My God, 27 people. Let’s all cry a tear.

  14. Adrian Kimberly says

    I have taken the liberty of renewing Ms. Anne F. Witti’s subscription for her. It’s on me, girl. Now go back to enjoying one of the best remaining newspapers in the country and stop your silly fretting.

    Everything okie-doakie now?

  15. contragenic says

    Aww jeez Edith they’re at it again!

    Yay Queers!Maybe we don’t have to wait for an entire generation of hate filled old white people to die after all.

    What would Cher do?

  16. Andalusian Dog says

    Let’s just read what Ann said for a second: she realizes the world is changing rapidly (as though it never did that before throughout the course of history), but some of the changes – she doesn’t like them. How many people who resist the equality of the LGBT etc. community are like her: not actually haters, per se, but older or more conservative people whose fondest desire is to live out their remaining days in what they define as comfort, oblivious to what is happening around them?

    This need for delusion, I would guess, makes up the majority of anti-gay sentiment in this country, rather than wingnut blowhard types who are just desperate for any kind of attention. If that is the case, then how can we alter our approach toward fighting bigotry?

    The world is going to move forward no matter how many people like or dislike it. We have to call out the bullshit in addition to just being us. The Anns of the world will not be able to block us out if we are not afraid to hold hands, or kiss, or dress, or move, or talk or whatever, however, we want. That is, just live, just like everybody else.

  17. Scooter says

    Wow guys really? Ann is entitled to her opinion. Her comments were not hateful and she stated her opinion and protested by canceling her subscription. In a community that is not even tolerant or nice to one another except for a circuit party or pride event, we have to be tolerant and take the high road. Being nasty to senior citizen is pathetic and just adds more damage to the fight for equality.

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