My current WIP takes place in Mississippi and because I have undertones of gay marriages and the lack of acceptance. I picked this state specifically because it is in the heart of the bible belt. So, I wasn’t surprised to learn that I had picked the perfect place for my story. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Mississippi does not recognize same-sex marriages, does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, and does not have any laws protecting people from hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
So I shouldn’t have been shocked about a story I read, but I was.
In a small town in southeastern Mississippi, the newspaper reported a gay marriage on its front cover calling it historical. The backlash the paper received was appalling and the paper’s owner Jim Cegielski had to write a response as to the reason the paper reported the story. Here’s what he said:
“We were well aware that the majority of people in Jones County are not in favor of gay marriage. However, any decent newspaper with a backbone can not base decisions on whether to cover a story based on whether the story will make people angry.
The job of a community newspaper is not pretending something didn’t take place or ignoring it because it will upset people. No, our job is to inform readers what is going on in our town and let them make their own judgments. That is exactly what we did with the wedding story. Our reporter heard about the wedding, attended it, interviewed some of the participants and wrote a news story. If there had been protestors at the wedding, we would have covered that the exact same way … but there weren’t any. We never said it was a good thing or a bad thing, we simply did our job by telling people what took place.
I took the bulk of the irate phone calls from people who called the paper to complain. Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the headline, “Historic Wedding,” and the fact that we chose to put the story on the front page. My answer to the “Historic Wedding” headline is pretty simple. You don’t have like something for it to be historic.
The holocaust, bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Black Sox scandal are all historic. I’m in no way comparing the downtown wedding of two females to any of those events (even though some of you made it quite clear that you think gay marriage is much worse).
We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying ‘I don’t need my children reading this.’ Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children.
I had at least 20 or so readers express to me they think gay marriage is “an abomination against God.” We never said it wasn’t. We never said it was.”
And here is where I think he missed a great opportunity to continue to educate Jones County. He continues on by saying he is saddened about the hate-filled viciousness directed at his staff. Okay, I get that, but this was written in the opinion section and he could have gone one step further and talked about the hate that the gay/lesbian community must be facing. But he didn’t.
And that saddens me.