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.
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.
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.
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."
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@example.com