The owner of the Laurel Leader-Call, a newspaper in Mississippi, is defending his decision to run a front page story on 7 February about what it called the first same-sex marriage in its county.
The newspaper headline read “Historic Wedding: Women wed in Laurel through smiles, tears” and featured the wedding of Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven, who has been battling brain cancer.
Family, friends and Mrs Craven’s doctors attended the wedding and Mrs Craven was quoted as saying: “If chemo doesn’t work, we don’t know what happens after that.”
However, the story caused outrage amongst some of the newspaper’s readers in a state that does not recognise same-sex marriage and the backlash was so severe that the newspaper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, felt compelled to write an editorial in the paper published on Saturday.
Mr Cegielski wrote: “We shouldn’t have to defend every decision we make here at the Leader-Call. However, the intense reaction to our gay wedding front page story, which led to a deluge of hate calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook posts, sound-offs and random cross stares thrown in my direction, warrants some sort of response.”
He continued: “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 cannot 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.”
Mr Cegielski says the majority of complaints were in regards to the headline calling the wedding “historic”, however he explains in his editorial: “You don’t have like something 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.”
Mr Cegielski also writes that he had at least twenty readers express to him that they thought same-sex marriage was “an abomination against God.”
Fifteen readers have cancelled their subscriptions in protest.