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Omaha World-Herald creates criteria to exclude same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2010

One of the favorite tactics for those who want to exclude based on a class is to come up with a justification – a seemingly non-biased criterion – to engage in discrimination while deflecting criticism. This exorcise allows the perpetrator to simultaneously feed their animus while claiming the mantle of decency and reasonableness.

Perhaps the most egregious examples of this were the “literacy tests” used to deny African Americans the right to vote. Blacks in the South weren’t denied the ability to vote due to skin color, you see, just ignorance. All justified and righteous. Except, of course, they weren’t applied fairly and were nothing more than a cover, an excuse, to give a pretense of reasonableness to blatant racism and violation of the 14th Amendment.

And while the civil rights movement ended race-based “literacy tests” in the 60’s, this way of thinking certainly lingers today. And we certainly see a lot of it directed towards gay people and same-sex couples.

One of the more common – and more stupid – arguments against marriage equality is a variation on the theme: “Everyone has the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex.”

This actually isn’t true (marriages in which one partner is gay are presumed to be fraudulent in a number of legal situations), but that’s beside the point. A rule which is designed to exclude based on specific attributes of the group excluded, is discriminatory on its face. As Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “a tax on yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.”

Now enter Terry Kroeger, the oh-so-clever publisher of the Omaha World-Herald.

Jeff and Heidi Wilke were delighted that their daughter was to be married and wanted their friends and neighbors to share in their joy. So they contacted the paper, only to be informed by Kroeger, the papers publisher, that he wouldn’t print same-sex wedding announcements.

The Wilke’s weren’t too pleased and so they used the power of the internet – and Facebook – to inform the world. I was but one of undoubtedly thousands who dropped Kroeger a little note expressing our disappointment.

So now Kroeger has back-tracked. He’s made an announcement which, at first glace, seems like he’s found social awareness and a conscience and is doing the right thing. In fact, the New York Times ran a headline Omaha Paper to Print Same-Sex Wedding Announcements in which Kroeger plays the martyr.

“What has transpired over recent days has included some reasoned discussions with us about our practices, but mostly it has been a stream of vitriol against The World-Herald,” said the publisher, Terry Kroeger. “This news organization is not guilty of hating gays and lesbians. Should we have seen this issue more clearly? Probably. Have we been too slow in reacting to this matter? Maybe. But hateful? Never.”

And yet the Wilke’s shouldn’t get too excited. Kroeger won’t be printing their announcement. Because the Omaha World-Herald has a new criteria, one designed to exclude most same-sex couples who would request notice in Omaha while pretending to be balanced and fair.

The “Celebrations” page of the Omaha World-Herald has provided a place to buy space to celebrate weddings, engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. It will continue to be just that. Celebrations announcements regarding legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage will be welcomed, regardless of the genders of the couple. We will not run announcements regarding commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions, again regardless of gender.

Some will criticize this action because they would prefer that same-sex announcements not appear in their newspaper. Others will say it doesn’t go far enough. Our sense is that this change will provide for a public “celebration” of important milestones in the lives of people who take the significant steps toward legally sanctioned marriage. Iowa and four other states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. We will publish Celebrations announcements of marriages from those jurisdictions.

You see, only marriage is an “important milestone” and in Omaha marriage is denied to same-sex couples. It isn’t that they are gay, you see, just not legally sanctioned. All justified and righteous. It isn’t Kroeger that is discriminatory, just the voters.

And because Kristin Wilke and Jessica Kitzman are going to wed in Minnesota instead of Iowa, well then his problem is solved. Kroeger can keep the lesbians out of his paper and give a pretense of reasonableness to justify his discrimination.

But sorry Omaha World-Herald. Sorry Terry Kroeger. You may have dodged the bullet today. But history will be no kinder to you that it is to all the others who came before you who have sought to justify their bias by bogus “tests.”

Comments

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beachewtoy75
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

Timothy…

“marriages in which one partner is gay are presumed to be fraudulent in a number of legal situations”

Do you know of any specifically? I want to use this next time I get in a YouTube fight! :)

krakatoa
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

Common sense about homes that only have mothers:

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

Cameron
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

SO!

Time for all us LEGALLY married people across the Internets to announce our legal marriages, anniversaries of legal marriages, engagements in legal marriages in the Omaha World Herald.

They don’t state “legal in Omaha” just “legal.”

We are married 6 years in Canada now…. sounds like something Omaha people need to hear about!

Bryan
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

@beachewtoy75 — “marriages in which one partner is gay are presumed to be fraudulent in a number of legal situations”

Let us suppose that you are a gay man and you wish to immigrate to the United States, so you marry your best friend, who happens to be a woman and is also a US citizen. If the Immigration Service discovers that you are gay, they may deem you to have a fraudulent marriage. They will then reject your immigration application in spite of the fact that you legally married a US citizen.

Ben M
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

Fernanda Romero and Kent Ross currently face 5 years for marriage fraud. Matos McGreevey argued that Gov McGreevey committed fraud when they got married.

Kelly
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

I’m with Cameron. I would love to see the Omaha Word-Herald get FLOODED with marriage announcements from same-sex couples who are legally married anywhere. Somehow I don’t think having a page full of “Celebrations” from Iowa and Massachusetts is what they had in mind…

DN
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

THANK YOU for pointing out that a gay person marrying anyone of the opposite sex can be considered fraud! I’ve been repeating this til I’m blue in the face. But hey what would I know about it; I’m just a gay immigrant desperate to move back to the city where his fiance lives :)

Franck
August 31st, 2010 | LINK

DN, I’m with you on this. They may say it “innocently” but I’m getting sick of people telling me that a scam heterosexual marriage would be okay if the ultimate goal was to be reunited with my fiancé. Urgh.

Dan L
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

I don’t know if any of you have ever actually been to Omaha, but it is literally on the Iowa border. Any couple from Omaha can cross the border into Council Bluffs or Carter Lake in minutes–and many have–to get legally married there. And they’ll have done so without ever having so much as left the Omaha metropolitan area.

The OWH will print any announcement relating to a same-sex marriage there. That undoubtedly will be a non-trivial number of announcements. In fact, it would probably be almost all of the same-sex marriages in Omaha, as frankly I can’t see why any Omahan would prefer a non-binding commitment ceremony in Omaha to a proper marriage just over the river.

I just don’t see the bias here. I don’t think the paper’s being that unreasonable.

Franck
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

Dan L, I think the reason is that not everyone wants to get married somewhere and see that marriage turn to legal insignificance just by crossing a state line (i.e. a river in this case?) Nebraska will never recognize your marriage anyway, why bother?

I’ll believe a nonexistence of bias if the paper somehow proves that the rule against “commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions” was applied before this whole affair.

Donnchadh
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

What is even more perverted about this decision than the prejudice is that a newspaper is following government policy. Most people understand that anything the government is against is cool and rebellious, while anything it approves of is bourgeois decadence. Anyone who follows the government’s advice is dismissed as part of the majority or, worse, politically correct.
And this applies an order of magnitude more in journalism.

customartist
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

beachewtoy75,

Didn’t Renee Zellweger ennull her marriage to Kenny Chesney with an accusation of “Fraud” (meaning you better give-in because you’re a fag)?

and Dan L,

“Unreasonability” is not the issue here. The policy was clearly enacted as an affront to Gays.

Hope Iowans are posting their weddings.

Does the paper publish Legal Anniversaries? Mine is coming up in October. How would they know? Are they requiring copies of Marriage Certificates? I’ll bet they do not require them for Straights. Are they posting Engagements too?…or just Proven Weddings after-the-fact?

Do they have online access?

Dan L
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

Franck, as a born-and-bred Omahan, I completely understand the sense of indignation a couple would feel driving back over the Missouri River and watching their marriage disappear into non-existence. At the same time, though, I have a hard time imagining very many couples forgoing the option entirely in favor of solely a commitment ceremony on the Omaha side. If anything, I would see a couple doing both: a simple civil marriage ceremony in Council Bluffs and then a more elaborate ceremony in Omaha–the same sort of dual civil and church ceremonies one sometimes sees with straight couples.

It’s useful to remember that the OWH is a middle-of-the-road newspaper that serves a lot of very conservative people. I understand why they would want to steer clear of any position that looks like “advocacy”. In the context of the people they serve, this seems like a sensible compromise, and given the physical proximity of the city to Iowa, the barrier they’re creating is relatively trivial, and it’s one that most couples would want to transcend anyway.

I can see why one might have some disagreement with their position and would prefer a more open policy. I probably would prefer a more open policy myself. What I can’t see is the kind of hyperventilation about likeness to “literacy tests” and the unjustified amount of heat that their decision has provoked.

NickC
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

I disagree with Timothy’s take on this one. As pointed out above, Omaha is right on the Iowa border, and the metropolitan area includes cities in Iowa. Iowa does not have a residency requirement for marriage, and any Nebraska couple can marry there. In other words, gay couples in the Omaha area have a real option for legal marriage, even if the marriages will not be recognized by the state of Nebraska.

The World Herald has announced that it will publish announcements related to marriages that are legal in the jurisdiction where they are performed–not necessarily where the couple lives. In other words, they will publish marriage notices for gay couples who marry in Iowa (or Massachusetts, DC, etc), even if they live in Nebraska.

Given all that, why is it such a big deal in your mind they don’t want to extend their marriage announcements to other types of commitments? I think they can reasonably argue that they have to draw a line somewhere. Since legal marriage is available in their region to all couples, gay or straight, they can draw the line without discriminating against gay couples.

I feel a little personal connection with all this. For one thing, my partner is from Omaha. But even more important to me–close to 100 years ago, my own grandparents crossed the border from Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa to get married. They couldn’t legally marry in Nebraska, because he was Japanese, and she was Spanish. Nebraska prohibited interracial marriage between Asians and Europeans.
So they were very much in the same position as gay couples today.

Of interest for this discussion: an Omaha newspaper DID publish a notice of my grandparents’ marriage–which led to the two of them being fired by their employer, who disapproved.

Timothy Kincaid
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

Are they requiring copies of Marriage Certificates? I’ll bet they do not require them for Straights. Are they posting Engagements too?…or just Proven Weddings after-the-fact?

Good point. Are they asking the heterosexuals to prove that they are getting legally married? Are they asking about whether previous divorces are final, whether a license has been purchased, or any questions at all?

Or is it only when it’s a same-sex couple that any questions come up about legality?

Timothy Kincaid
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

Bearchewtoy,

Whenever one spouse is gay and the other is straight, there is a cause for invalidation. I can think of half a dozen examples:

Immigration assumes fraud. The IRS can claim fraud. Heirs can get inheritance reversed. Divorce court assumes fraud. Even the Catholic Church will give an annulment because of fraud. And society in general – your Aunt Millie and the girls in her bingo group – all consider it to be invalid.

When you think about it, there is no one at all who thinks such a marriage is “real”.

Jacob
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

discrimination is discrimination no matter how you look at it. I can;t believe that people are so narrow minded to stick to definitions. A person can’t be married to the same sex because the definition of marriage is…. I think that mind set is more common today and progressively annoying.

TampaZeke
September 1st, 2010 | LINK

“When you think about it, there is no one at all who thinks such a marriage is “real”.”

Have you ever heard of Alan Chambers? ;)

Timothy Kincaid
September 2nd, 2010 | LINK

krakatoa,

You are providing factually incorrect information. They data you are providing is not about “fatherless homes” but is rather about single parents.

The cumulative data shows that two parent homes do remarkably better than single parent homes, on average, but that there is not discernible benefit to having the two parents be of different sexes.

And, incidentally, your cut and paste posting seems to be wildly inaccurate. For example, there does not appear to be a “National Principals Association” and the NASSP website does not provide any “Report on the State of High Schools”.

customartist
September 3rd, 2010 | LINK

So, in relation to Gays married to Straights, Gayness is not necessarily dependent upon Conduct?

Jason D
September 3rd, 2010 | LINK

NickC said”Given all that, why is it such a big deal in your mind they don’t want to extend their marriage announcements to other types of commitments? I think they can reasonably argue that they have to draw a line somewhere.”

Actually no, Nick. Why, why would they have to “draw the line somewhere”? This is not a free service they are providing. According to their form:
http://marketplace.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=10300&frm_id=3

“A Wedding Essentials consultant will contact you to help design your personalized announcement with this information.
Wedding announcements are charged by the inch with a 2 inch minimum.”

Their generic form(Use this form to announce a milestone Birthday, Graduation, Retirement or event.) has similar language:
http://marketplace.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=10300&frm_id=5

“PAYMENTS: All ads must be prepaid. Please give a number where you may be reached during the day. The announcement must be confirmed and paid for before the deadline (described above) or the announcement will not appear in the newspaper. All changes and corrections must be made prior to the deadline (described above).”

Nowhere on the wedding announcement form do they ask for any legal information, license number, anything with which they could verify someone’s marriage. In fact they explicitly state “PLEASE COMPLETE AND SUBMIT ONLY THE INFORMATION WHICH YOU DESIRE TO HAVE PUBLISHED.”

The generic “celebrations form” just has a box for you to fill in the “Type of Celebration”. I don’t see why “Commitment Ceremony” would be out of bounds.

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