Last Thursday, The Washington Post reported on D.C.’s new marriage equality law and some of the first marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples. The story appeared on the front page accompanied by a photograph of two men kissing.
Since then and through the weekend The Post says they’ve received complaint upon complaint. According to their circulation manager a total of 27 people have canceled their Post subscriptions specifically citing the photograph as their reason.
The complaints, according to Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander:
A few of the readers have engaged in rants, often with anti-gay slurs. One called me to complain about “promoting a faggot lifestyle.” Another complained about the photo in an e-mail to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday’s story about the licenses: “That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up. People have kids who are being exposed to this crap. I will be glad when your rag goes out of business. Real men marry women.”
But most simply said The Post had offended their sensibilities by publishing the photo, especially on the front page.
Ann Witty of Woodbridge wrote to say she had canceled the Post subscription she has held since the 1960s.
“I am 65 years old and I realize that the world is changing rapidly – much more rapidly than I would like it to,” she e-mailed. “While I realize that the Post must report on these changes – even the ones with which I do not agree – I feel that the picture on Thursday morning was an affront to the majority of your readership. It is not something that I want coming into my home. I believe that even your editors know that it would have been better placed in the Metro section and that it would have mitigated its impact to do so.”
Wrote Lee Miller of Columbia: “I would appreciate it if your cover pictures would not be so disturbing where my kids can see it easily on the kitchen table… please don’t shove this “Gay” business in our face. This is something that should have shown up on an inside page or two (without the picture).”
In comments to the ombudsman’s call-in line (202.334.7582), one reader said, “the picture of two guys kissing makes me cringe.” Another called it “ridiculous,” adding: “Put it on page 10 or page four, put it in the paper, but I do not like it right there where I can’t avoid looking at it.”
But in a post on his Post blog, Alexander stands by his two gay men:
Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its Web site, and it warranted front-page display.
News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent D.C. Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the District. The photo of Ames and Ariga kissing simply showed joy that would be exhibited by any couple planning to wed – especially a couple who previously had been denied the legal right to marry.
There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change.