Meet Terrance James.
Terrance is suffering from spinal meningitis, the same condition his partner, John Millican, died from in June. Now he’s caught up in a war of words with the Batesville Guardian Daily Guard, which apparently has a discriminatory policy that keeps gay partners from being listed in their obituaries, unless they play a healthy amount of money to be included.
He never knew how real it would be for him someday.
Terence was erased from his partner’s obituary as his surviving partner. When contacted the paper said it excludes all unmarried couples from the free obituaries. They then took it further telling him that because of the Bible and the AR Marriage Ammendment his especially would not be recognized. They then told him that for a fee of $85.00 he could be included.
Terence came to CAR and asked for help. He was sick, grief stricken and exhausted. He wanted the paper to apologize for the way they spoke to him, re-print the obituary to include him as John’s surviving partner (free) and change the policy so that ALL couples, gay or straight would not have to face such prejudice in their time of loss and pain.
In response to our inquiries there seemed to be a willingness to revisit the policy, but there was no commitment to do so. GLAAD thought they had secured all three points after discussions with the paper’s lawyer (and the publisher’s son). The very next day the paper would print a vile full page editorial attacking Terence James. It ran across the page form HRC’s (we asked for their help) full page ad asking for the policy to be changed.
The paper continues to hide their ugly attack on Terence and their “moral policing” behind policy; insisting that they will only allow married couples to be recognized in the free obituary. Families come in all sorts of configurations these days. And it should be up the surviving partner of ANY couple – gay or straight – who shared their life, their struggles and their joys to decide if they are named in the obituary. NOT the newspaper. The newspaper is not printing a true public record if it erases these families.
The editorial the Batesville Guardian Daily Guard put out is pretty nasty and unprofessional. It attacks Terrance personally and fails to address many of the charges made. But that aside, this is the human cost of marriage inequality. When you spend your life with someone, love someone, take care of someone, and then see that someone die, you are entitled to all the respect of any other surviving spouse. That’s just part of decent humanity. Were a straight person treated this way, it would be considered inexcusable. But because of religious based bigotry enshrined in law and custom, Terrance and his deceased partner are second class citizens at best. The sad thing? This is far from a dramatic example. There are countless people in this country who have been denied the right to hold their partner’s hand as they slipped away in the hospital, who lost what should have been there’s to keep in inheritance battles with estranged family members, who could have paid for their loved one’s treatment with their insurance were they given equality before the law, and all because theocratic hate is enshrined in America.
This is why marriage equality is a must, and we have to stand up for it wherever injustice like this occurs. Were Terrance and his partner protected by the law, this kind of discrimination might have never happened. But as always, there’s hope. This has become national news now and the folks at CAR are encouraging people to write to express their feelings on the matter tot he folks running the Guardian:
Terence vows that he will not die, that he will stand fast for fair treatment for himself and all those who either choose to not marry or like terence and John, could not marry. In the meantime he needs us to stand for him and stand for all of our families.
Please make the calls and send the emails. Please pass this on to five of your friends and ask them to help too.
Lawyer Mr. Oscar Jones – 870-793-3206 (also Pat Jone’s son)
Editor: Angelia Roberts: 870-793-2383 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Bruner Assistant Managing Editor email@example.com
Larry Stroud Associate Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Jones, 870-793-2383, email@example.com publisher
Update: Randi Romo of CAR informed me that they will be holding a Batesville Action planning meeting tomorrow. If you want to get involved with CAR on this issue and other important ones, I’d encourage you to contact Randi either by calling or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-244-9690
Update II: Thanks to Ken Adler for pointing out that I screwed up the paper’s name. Going to pass that one off on writing while I was sick.