North Dakota paper reverses ban on same-sex wedding ads

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Story highlights

  • Editor: Fargo Forum will publish notices of legally recognized same-sex marriages
  • Change comes after Fargo couple criticized paper for rejecting their ad
  • Their ad will run in the Forum after the couple marries in New York, couple says
  • "We are very proud of our community and everyone who supported us," couple says
A North Dakota newspaper has reversed its policy against publishing same-sex wedding announcements after rejecting a couple's ad last week, stirring controversy in the community and beyond.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead will accept for publication announcements of same-sex marriages, engagements and anniversaries if the marriage takes place in a state or country where it's legally recognized, editor Matt Von Pinnon announced over the weekend.
The newspaper will not publish announcements for non-legally recognized marriages, such as civil unions and commitment ceremonies, he said.
"We inform the public, plain and simple," he said. "We report on many, many things that we neither endorse nor condemn. That's the nature of news. Some people would like us to deny that gay marriage is legally recognized in several states and countries. To not recognize that fact is to deny or distort the truth, something we're not willing to do.
"We bring readers marriage announcements, engagement announcements and anniversary announcements because it informs them of what people around them are doing. We tried to set a reasonable standard for what constitutes news in this arena, and we think a legally recognized marriage fits that bill."
The old policy drew attention after the newspaper refused to publish an announcement from Fargo residents Allison Johnson, 31, and her fiancee, 27-year-old Kelsey Smith. Johnson received an e-mail from the "celebrations editor" on July 23 and shared it with friends. One of those friends, iReporter Gia Rassier, posted a screen shot of the e-mail on Twitter, CNN iReport and Facebook, where it "spread like wildfire," Rassier said.
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The uproar prompted a review of the policy, said Von Pinnon, who met with the couple July 24. Amid the controversy, Johnson and Smith said they received messages of support from as far as Europe and Australia.
The development comes just in time for their wedding on Wednesday in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal. The couple, who have been together since 2008, said their ad would run in the Forum on Sunday.
"We are very proud of our community and everyone who supported us and this cause! They are the reason for the policy change. They made their voices heard and change occurred because of it," Johnson said Monday after landing in New York.
The paper heard from more than 600 people in the Fargo area and elsewhere, who appeared "equally divided" over the issue, Von Pinnon said in his column. The old policy stemmed from the marriage laws of both North Dakota and neighboring Minnesota, both of which do not recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
"We are thrilled with the Forum's decision to reform their policy," Johnson said. "While it is a great step in the right direction we know there is still so much more to be done for true equality to be reached."