Missouri Newspaper Refuses To Run Gay Couple’s Wedding Announcement

Stop the presses.

Talk about sour grapes: A newspaper in Missouri is refusing to run the wedding announcement for a gay couple—and not even giving the newlyweds a reason.

Shaun Murphy and Aaron Lopez tied the knot in September, just a few months after the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in all 50 states. They contacted newspapers in Aaron’s small Michigan hometown and the city in Iowa where Shaun lived until he was 10, and both were happy to run an announcement of their recent nuptials.

Shaun then called the Lake Gazette in Monroe City, Missouri, where he’d lived for the remainder of his childhood. At first the editor invited them to send the announcement, which the paper usually publishes for free as a service to the community.

But then things got weird.

“It was three weeks of ’maybe we will, maybe we won’t,'” Shaun tells the Riverfront Times. “I wasn’t getting any direct answers.”

He reached out to the Gazette’s parent company, Lakeway Publishers, and was connected to vice president Walt Gilbert.

“I didn’t want to leave you hanging,” Gilbert told him. “We’re not going to publish your wedding announcement.”

Gilbert said Lakeway, which owns 23 papers across the midwest, was studying “how the industry was going to respond to this” — “this” being gay marriage, presumably. And then he hung up.

(Maybe someone should tell Mr. Gilbert “this” has been going on for more than a decade, and most papers have figured out how to handle it without imploding.)

The Murphy-Lopezes say friends who tried to take out ads in the Gazette congratulating them were also rebuffed.

Murphy says the community in Monroe City has always been helpful and supportive to his family: “I don’t want anyone to say anything bad about my hometown,” he insists. “But we want the publishing company to change their policy.”

We generally think of wedding announcements as a statement of fact, not a personal endorsement of whether the newspaper likes the couple or respects their choice to be united in holy matrimony. Unfortunately, Missouri doesn’t include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination laws, meaning the publishers are well within their rights to turn them away.

“Living in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, I’ve always been protected,” Murphy says. “But when we go home, a business like this can say ’we won’t serve you’ — or, if we wanted to stay overnight, we could get kicked out of our hotel for being gay. We want to get the word out about that.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery