TN newspapers at bottom of GLAAD report

A new report by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) shows that 1,049 daily U.S. newspapers now accept wedding announcements from gay and lesbian couples.

The new figure represents a more than fifteen-fold increase since Aug. 18, 2002, when The New York Times opened its Weddings/Celebrations pages to gays and lesbians. While the study showed a large nationwide increase in the number of inclusive mainstream newspapers, it also showed that Tennessee was the state with the lowest percentage of inclusive papers. Only 15 of the state's mainstream newspapers, about one in three, accept announcements from gays and lesbians.

Rashad Robinson, GLAAD senior director of media programs, said it is important to increase that number because same-sex wedding announcements can go a long way in advancing GLBT equality.

"Making our stories real to every day Americans and having our stories represented outside of the judicial sections and legislative sections is important," Robinson said. "Having our stories of celebration is incredibly important to advancing the conversations in our communities so that equality is not just something we talk about but something that actually happens."

Placing an image of two loving same-sex partners into the public’s consciousness advances the gay and lesbian minority interest in legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions, according to Melissa Beske, adjunt professor of anthropology at Tulane University,

"Same-sex wedding announcements serve as an important counterexample to challenge our culture’s heteronormativity," Beske said. "Marriage announcements have historically served as artifacts of our latent Victorian ideal traditionalism, yet same-sex union announcements serve as a testament to our ever-liberalizing social norms."

Publications that have taken the more liberal stance about same-sex wedding announcement include Clarksville's Leaf-Chronicle, the Cleveland Daily Banner, the Knoxville News Sentinel, Memphis' Commercial Appeal, Morristown's Citizen Tribune, Seymour's Herald Newspapers, and the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.

While GLAAD’s research shows that 15 mainstream newspapers in Tennessee are inclusive, only the Knoxville News Sentinel has printed a same-sex marriage announcement in the past.

"I think some newspapers simply have not caught-up with the times, with the fact that these stories are being shared in cities and in rural areas," Robinson said. "Progress sometimes takes longer in some places."

In 2008, some papers in Tennessee created a policy of printing same-sex wedding announcements on a case-by-case basis. These include Chattanooga Times and Free Press, Maryville’s Daily Times, Murfreesoboro’s Daily News Journal, Nashville’s Tennessean, Oak Ridge’s Oak Ridger, and Paris’ Paris Post-Intelligencer.

Most of these case-by-case papers have yet to update their wedding announcement forms and still require that a bride’s name and a groom’s name be listed.

GLAAD is working with the Tennessee Equality Project to encourage same-sex couples to make their wedding announcements public through newspapers.

"This is a call to duty to Out and About readers," Robinson said. "Not everyone can have a Supreme Court case. Not everyone is going to be able to take time out from work to go to the legislature on lobby day. But, there are conversations that each and everyone of us can have with our friends, our families, and our neighbors. We all have a responsibility to announce our equality."

Robinson said it is important for GLBT people to share their stories and wedding announcements the same way straight couples do.

"It is important that we have these conversations with our friends, families and neighbors about our relationships and who we are," Robinson said. "Sharing our stories is important."

Although announcements of same-sex weddings might be scarce, the ceremonies are not uncommon in Tennessee.

Dan Rosemergy, who has been a minster in Nashville for over 20 years and is currently minister of the of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Nashville has performed many same-sex weddings.

"I have done hundreds of weddings, and a significant number of them within the GLBT community," Rosemergy said. "Within the state of Tennessee, I have officiated in holy union covenant services for GLBT couples, and in my experience I find them to be a coming-together of persons who are very much in love and have made a commitment to their families and friends.

"Announcements make a statement that the community recognizes the commitment is being made, and it saddens me that some are afraid to make announcements."

Beske said gay and lesbian wedding announcements are important for the partners entering into a marriage agreement because announcements create a social expectation of life-long commitment between the partners. Announcements in effect create public affirmation through public witness of gay and lesbian couples’ decisions, she said.

"The wedding announcements and the gifts that are exchanged keep people connected to society, and that is immensely important for the functioning of social groups," Beske said.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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