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Arkansas Newspaper Rebuffs GLAAD, Revokes Apology to Gay Man Left Out of Partner's Obituary

Last week, GLAAD secured a commitment from Arkansas newspaper The Batesville Daily Guard to apologize to Terrance James, the surviving 10-year partner of a gay man for omitting him from his late partner's obituary. The paper also promised to re-run the obituary with James' name in it.

James Late last week, the paper completely reversed its commitment, claiming that James has an "agenda". Blue Arkansas has more on James and his battle.

Wrote the paper, in part, in an editorial Friday:

It was brought to our attention Terence James had a problem with our policy because he was not listed in the free obituary as a life partner. Once again, free obituaries do not list life partners or significant others, nor does it list in-laws or ex-spouses...

...After obtaining a copy of the paperwork filled out by Mr. James at the funeral home, we learned he listed two cats as daughters and a dog as a son. Once again, Mr. James was told by the director the Guard does not list pets as survivors in a free obituary.

We deal with the death of loved ones on a daily basis and our established policy allows us to do that with consistency. Listing pets as children is a direct slap in the face to every grieving parent who has buried a child, young or old.

This begs the question of exactly what motive Mr. James had when he began giving out false information to news channels and various organizations in order to promote his own agenda.

Because of Mr. James, the Guard has come under fire for the policies that are in place for everyone.

GLAAD wrote:

Today, the paper has completely hardened on that stance, insisting that excluding a surviving partner of ten years is justifiable.  At GLAAD, we completely disagree.  Excluding a grieving partner from recognition is cruel and insensitive.  It’s wrong.

GLAAD got involved on Wednesday, after reading about the incident on Queerty. That afternoon, we contacted the Guard’s spokesperson/attorney Oscar Jones to see what could be done, and he expressed what we understood to be sincere sympathy. He offered us a direct promise that the policy was in the process of changing, and the paper would meet next week to formalize changes to recognize surviving partners without a marriage certificate. He also expressed an interest in apologizing to Terrance James directly. On Thursday, we reached out to Terrance and told him what Oscar, acting as the paper’s spokesperson, told us. Terrance said he would like to hear from the paper, so we called Oscar to pass along his contact information. At this point, Oscar offered to run a paid obituary, written however Terrance would like it written, and said the paper would donate the fee for the obituary to the charity of Terrance’s choosing, in the memory of his partner. We offered to pay for the obituary.

Little Rock LGBT Rights group Center for Artistic Revolution is reportedly planning a community vigil for James.

Reuters reports:

Now the protests are going forward, and the central figure in the controversy, the gay life partner of a man who died from spinal meningitis, is threatening legal action from a hospital bed.

"I want a hundred times more now than I did at the beginning of all of this, which was just to have my name listed," Terence James told Reuters on Monday. James has been diagnosed with the same illness that killed his partner, John Millican, on June 11.

Oscar Jones, the newspaper's attorney, told Reuters on Monday that the policy was still being reviewed and that it was "a process," not something they could do overnight. "That's a process as opposed to just not a decision immediately," Jones said. "I anticipate changes in the policy but I don't know what those will be yet."

GLAAD adds:

Please contact the publisher and let her know that the paper does in fact owe Mr. James an apology, and should re-run the obituary, including recognition of the surviving partner:

Pat Jones, 870-793-2383, [email protected]

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Comments

  1. Why should a newspaper get to decide who to list in an obituary? It's basically an ad. The content should be left to the widow(er)

    Though I agree with the pet thing - if it's true.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 28, 2011 11:02:25 AM


  2. "Late last week, the paper completely reversed its commitment, claiming that James has an "agenda"."

    Yeah, it's called "being treated exactly the same way that straight people are treated".

    "Listing pets as children is a direct slap in the face to every grieving parent who has buried a child, young or old."

    No it's not. This man considers his pets to be part of his family. That has no effect on theoretical dead children from other families.

    Posted by: David in Houston | Jun 28, 2011 11:06:15 AM


  3. It's a scummy little town and a scummy rag of a "news"paper. "News" includes listing surviving spouses in obituaries, for all of the readers' sake if nothing else.

    Posted by: Dave | Jun 28, 2011 11:11:08 AM


  4. Wow.

    Mixed feelings on this one.

    IF the paper had a standing policy about ex-spouses, partners etc in the FREE obituaries, fine.

    He should do what everyone else has to do-PAY FOR DEATH NOTICE. This is normally done at the time you meet with the funeral home. They'll submit the notice (for a fee), and the paper has the "option" of including another obituary write up. Basically, look in any paper-there are "death notices", and there are "obituaries". There is a difference.

    But, hey it IS Arkansas after all....

    Posted by: jtramon | Jun 28, 2011 11:16:24 AM


  5. My hometown newspaper- Arizona Daily Star- frequently includes partners, friends, and pets in the obituaries.

    I sent the editor of this pathetic rag an email asking her why she hates gay people so much.

    Posted by: homer | Jun 28, 2011 11:17:16 AM


  6. Seems like a lot of excuses being made by this Arkansas newspaper business to be bigoted. I've contacted the publisher already and we'll see how they react when they realize that we as a community won't let actions like this slide.

    Posted by: Francis | Jun 28, 2011 11:19:35 AM


  7. He's wrong on this, and so is GLAAD (shocker!) once again. They offer two types of obituaries: FREE and For Cost. The FREE selection get's you 4 lines without listing any survivors at all. If you pay, they'll say whatever you want. There is an agenda here, and it's one that will bite us all in the ass. Nothing is free, and this gentlemen should understand that this is about money, not discrimination.

    Posted by: Wayne | Jun 28, 2011 11:19:45 AM


  8. @Wayne - Well said. Completely agree. From what the article is saying, the newspaper is not treating him any differently than they would a girl who lost her boyfriend.

    Posted by: Come on... | Jun 28, 2011 11:30:57 AM


  9. Wayne- maybe you should re-read the editorial- survivors are listed in the free obituary- except "life partners" are not.

    Posted by: homer | Jun 28, 2011 11:32:03 AM


  10. He should have opted for paid (wasn't his life partner worth it?). Not sure why there is a free version, perhaps there's a legal notice requirement in AR. Newspapers need content restrictions on ads, obituaries and the like to prevent misuse, such as commercial ads placed in obituaries or non-edited copy, or something libelous. See the movie "Longtime Companion" for more on this issue.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 28, 2011 11:33:51 AM


  11. If the people behind the newspaper feel so strongly about this stance, why didn't the editor (I'm assuming) who wrote this terse at best, insensitive at worst open letter about it have the guts to have his or her name in the byline. Maybe it was in the print version but I'm not seeing it online.

    Posted by: Rob | Jun 28, 2011 11:41:04 AM


  12. what would expect from a two bit newspaper from arkansas the state that gave mike fuckabee.

    Posted by: walter | Jun 28, 2011 11:46:43 AM


  13. They're using the pets as smokescreen for blatant bigotry.

    Posted by: Adrian | Jun 28, 2011 11:57:02 AM


  14. My personal belief is if he paid for the obituary, then he has a right to list not only himself as the surviving partner, but his pets as well, no matter what this hillbilly publication's "policy" is. Give the man a break...he just lost his spouse of ten years!

    Posted by: Frederick | Jun 28, 2011 12:12:50 PM


  15. Personally, I bristle whenever someone refers to their pets as their children. It's demeaning to parents, kids, & pets!

    But seriously, don't do that.

    Posted by: Pete n SFO | Jun 28, 2011 12:22:38 PM


  16. This is Arkansas, what can one expect?

    Posted by: Robert | Jun 28, 2011 12:25:02 PM


  17. @Homer: Arkansas has an amendment banning marriage equality. The newspaper clearly states they do not list "life partners" or "significant others" in the FREE obituaries. First, if you want to marry, move to a state where it's legal. It will NEVER be legal in Arkansas. Second, read the rules before you complain, much less draw attention to yourself. He's wrong and you're wrong. This is about money and legalities. You may perceive discrimination in their response, or their policies, but that's your opinion and isn't based on fact or legalities. Understand your opponent before you engage. Or you will lose every time.

    Posted by: Wayne | Jun 28, 2011 12:53:15 PM


  18. Hey Wayne, I don't debate assholes.

    Posted by: homer | Jun 28, 2011 1:21:50 PM


  19. At the bottom is what I sent Pat Jones...above is her speedy response.

    Our policy is outdated and needs to be brought into the 21st century which we will do.Times have changed and so must we all.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: [email protected]
    Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:36pm
    To: [email protected]
    Subject: Watching and waiting.


    Hey Madame Editor,
    I hope you do what's right, decent, and human in regard to Terrance James the surviving partner. America is watching.

    Sincerely


    Bryson Edwards
    Greensboro, NC.

    "When people show you who they are believe them the first time"- Dr. Maya Angelou

    Posted by: Bryson | Jun 28, 2011 1:51:58 PM


  20. When the staff of the "Buggtussle-- I mean Batesville Daily Guard" begins planning their own obituaries, I'm sure they'll run into their own problems: for example, should the editor list his wife Lula Belle as his wife or as his cousin? Should the ad manager list her husband Bud as her husband or as her brother? The guy who wrote the retraction of the apology is probably still confused from when he had to write his mother's obituary; he's still trying to figure out whether he should have listed her as Mom, Aunt, or Grandma, since all likely applied.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Jun 28, 2011 6:42:27 PM


  21. As the publisher of Arkansas' GLBT magazine, we will help in the fight to do whatever we can to see that this right is wronged.

    And I am so damn sick of "hillbillies marrying their cousins" or "it's the South, what do you expect?" comments. Arkansas has nearly 6,000 same-sex couples, living in ALL 75 of its counties. Just like anywhere else, there are progressive people, GLBT people, and allies, and the newspaper in Batesville doesn't even speak for all of Batesville, much less all of Arkansas.

    Posted by: Mike | Jun 29, 2011 2:29:43 AM


  22. I emailed as well. Looks like @Bryson and I got the same stock response.

    "It is an outdated policy and needs to be brought into the 21st century as our sociey is changing and so must we all. Sincerely, Pat Jones "

    Posted by: MatthewD | Jun 29, 2011 10:02:14 AM


  23. Oh my! How nefarious that homosexual agenda is!

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jun 29, 2011 11:37:59 AM


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