by Sam Levin
Update below: A gay couple who recently got engaged says that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is intentionally rejecting the engagement announcement they want to run in print, because they have some sort of unwritten policy against same-sex couples. The accusation of the duo Kurt Lee and Kyle Hanten -- engaged in February -- spread on Facebook today ,and angry readers went to the paper's Facebook page to express their outrage.
A spokeswoman with the P-D, however, tells Daily RFT that the paper has absolutely no policy against same-sex couple's engagement and wedding announcements and has posted them many times before. She also sends us a 2002 article the paper wrote about itself on this issue.
"I'm really pissed off," Hanten, 24, tells us. "There's nothing X-rated about it, even if the marriage may not be legal."
The comments section on the P-D Facebook page is now filled with angry readers demanding to know why the paper might have some policy that would block a same-sex couple from making the same kind of announcement that straight couples can make.
In response to one of the angry posts from Hanten himself, the official Post-Dispatch Facebook account responded:
Tracy Rouch, a spokeswoman for the P-D, adds, "We've been doing this for years.... Everybody is accepted no matter what."
She says the policy works such that couples submit them online and then they eventually run in print, all free of charge.
Hanten is not convinced.
He says it's clear to him that they have a rule against posting these announcements from gay couples and that now they are telling them they can put it online -- but that's not enough.
"They rejected it in the paper," he says. "We want it in the paper."
Here's the announcement he posted today that has gotten nearly 100 Facebook shares.
And this one on the Post-Dispatch page:
Continue for more from the couple and the P-D's response.
Rouch says that the paper hasn't heard from the couple and is trying to get in contact with them to clarify and explain that there is no policy like the one Hanten is describing.
Hanten tells us that, through a friend of a friend who worked at the paper in layout, the couple was going to get their announcement in print.
He passes along this e-mail from that anonymous employee who says, in part:
As soon as I submitted the information for the ad my publisher saw it and she is rejecting it. She approached me about Kurt and Kyle going to the Post Dispatch for an engagement announcement, which could possibly be denied. I tried. Perhaps Kurt and Kyle would be interested in challenging the powers that be to get their announcement in?
But Rouch, who says they don't have a record of this couple sending in a submission, reiterates: "We accept all weddings and engagements free of charge to anybody regardless of their sexual orientation."
And for his part, Lee tells us he is surprised by the whole ordeal.
"I didn't think it would get pulled," he says. "We thought maybe it'd get some negative attention from people that don't understand our life...but I didn't think we'd be denied."
A friend who encouraged them to put the announcement in the paper, Lee says, "wanted to make some awareness that there are gay couples getting engaged."
Hanten says the announcement just had this text:
Kurt Lee of Saint Charles, son of mother Jeanee, stepfather Terry and father Kevin, is engaged to Kyle Hanten of Omaha Nebraska son of mother Tobi and father Kevin. Wedding planned for fall of 2014
Here's an article from 2002 that Rouch sent us:
PAPER WILL RUN ANNOUNCEMENT OF GAY COUPLE'S ANNIVERSARY\ POST-DISPATCH JOINS OTHERS NATIONWIDE IN ACCEPTING ADS
Friday, 9/13/2002, METRO, C4
By Greg Jonsson\Of The Post-Dispatch
John Todd and Mike Jones couldn't get married when they fell in love more than two decades ago, and they couldn't have an announcement printed when they were joined in a same-sex commitment ceremony four years ago today.
But Saturday, an advertisement purchased by the gay couple will appear in the Post-Dispatch to announce the anniversary of their commitment ceremony. With this ad, the Post-Dispatch joins about 125 other papers nationwide that run such announcements, according to the Gay & Lesbian All iance Against Defamation. The New York Times ran its first same-sex commitment announcement alongside marriage announcements, which it treats as news content, this month. The Los Angeles Times announced this week that it would begin accepting paid announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a media watchdog group, has been lobbying newspapers to begin running the announcements and wants to double the number of such papers in the next year.
The Post-Dispatch began discussing the issue several weeks ago, as buzz began that The New York Times might soon begin running same-sex announcements. Rather than formulate a new policy, the Post-Dispatch decided to use the standards it uses when judging whether to accept other advertisements, said Matthew G. Kraner, general manager.
Todd and Jones' advertisement met those standards, he said.
"It's our job to make sure things are accurate in the ad, that the ad is not misleading and that it stands up to our standard" to look out for the best interests of readers and public decency, Kraner said. "We do not want to get into determining what's right or wrong, particularly with regards to free speech."
The announcement will not run under the same heading as wedding announcements, but separately in Saturday's Lifestyle section.
"I'm OK with that, " Todd said. "It's a really good first step. I'm really happy the Post has shown their willingness to accept and realize the diversity that exists in our community."
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also applauded the decision.
But Kerry Messer, president of Missouri Family Network, criticized the decision to accept the ads as taking an "advocacy role" on behalf of gay and lesbian couples. Messer said the newspaper would create more animosity against gays and lesbians by running the announcements.
"They're making their plight worse, " he said.
Update: After publishing the post above yesterday, we received new information from Hanten, who explains that it wasn't just a free engagement announcement they were seeking.
Hanten says that they were trying to get a paid engagement advertisement in print -- and that their friend who knew a P-D employee had offered it to them as a gift and was all set to pay.
The friend and the P-D employee, he says, had this advertisement ready for print, when they were told last-minute, that it was being pulled.
"This is about paying to put something special in there," he says, arguing that the P-D's official response to Daily RFT is just in reference to the free engagement announcements -- and not paid ads in print.
He says this rejection was clearly a discriminatory move.
We've placed in a follow-up call and e-mail to the P-D spokeswoman with this specific question. We'll update again if we hear back.