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Newspapers mull gay marriage announcements

Newspapers are grappling with how to deal with announcements from some of the more than 3,300 same-sex weddings that have been held in the past two weeks in San Francisco.
/ Source: The Associated Press

When Zandra Rolon and Lori Rogers seized the opportunity for gay couples to marry in San Francisco and exchanged vows last week, they didn’t just tell their friends about it. They put it in the local paper.

“People don’t have much exposure to same-sex marriages, and I think we should have an equal right not only to publicly celebrate, but also to publicly announce,” said Rolon, a chiropractor from Watsonville.

Newspapers in this city and beyond are grappling with how to deal with announcements from some of the more than 3,300 same-sex weddings that have been held in the past two weeks.

In the past few years, an increasing number of newspapers around the country have been running announcements of gay commitment ceremonies and civil unions. But the San Francisco weddings led some newspapers to rethink things.

At the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which has been publishing same-sex unions for about 15 years, the burst of weddings in San Francisco prompted a change: “Now these go under ‘weddings’ instead of ‘celebrations,”’ said editor Tom Honig.

Gay marriages — including Rolon and Rogers’ — made up half of all the marriage announcements in Sunday’s paper, Honig said. He said there has been little response to the announcements in the liberal Northern California community, though one reader did accuse the paper of moving the gay marriages above the straight ones.

But Honig said: “There just aren’t that many weddings going on this month. We put them all in, in no particular order.”

At The New York Times, however, editors placed a story about gay marriage at the top of its weddings and celebrations Sunday section, and included an announcement by two Los Angeles doctors — surgeon Helen Cooksey and breast cancer researcher and author Susan Love.

The newspaper has been running gay commitment ceremonies for years. But New York Times spokesman Toby Usnik said editors opted to highlight the gay marriages because, “as in many parts of the paper, we tried to illuminate a situation currently in the news by profiling an interesting person centrally involved.”

The San Francisco Chronicle traditionally runs announcements for all couples, gay or straight, for $200 to $300. To date, no gay couples married in the city since Feb. 12 have opted to buy one of the announcements.

But the Chronicle is preparing to remedy that by promoting a new, $150 announcement-and-photo package. And executive vice president and editor Phil Bronstein said the flurry of weddings has the newspaper considering running some announcements for free. “I think in the last few years we have really emphasized the notion that profiles of people, in one form or another, are extremely valuable to a newspaper,” he said. “These announcements would be another way to do it. It’s definitely an interesting debate and discussion.”

As of this month, 223 newspapers around the country either run same-sex union announcements or say they would be willing to do so if asked by a local resident, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Some object to the increased publicity.

“We think these couples are breaking the law by getting married, so we think that by announcing the marriages in the newspapers, the newspapers are condoning these people breaking the law,” said Michele Ammons, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Coalition of America.

Desiree Hargrave, an organizer of the second annual Gay and Lesbian Wedding Expo in Los Angeles, which drew 2,000 people last week, said announcements play an important role: “It sends a message to everyone out there that we’re here and we want to be recognized and respected.”