Maryland governor pushes for union ceremony announcements

Maryland governor Parris Glendening, who pushed a gay rights bill through the state's general assembly two years ago, has sent letters to three newspapers asking them to publish announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies. "Maryland has a rich tradition of justice and fairness," the Democratic governor wrote in letters Thursday to The [Annapolis] Capital, The [Baltimore] Sun, and The Washington Post. "Including same-sex civil commitment ceremony announcements alongside announcements of heterosexual weddings is just and fair." Glendening said Maryland newspapers should follow the lead of other major newspapers that have adopted policies of publishing notices for gay and lesbian couples. Among newspapers that have recently begun publishing such notices are The New York Times, The Oregonian of Portland, The Boston Globe, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Glendening, who will leave office January 15 when his second term ends, has been an advocate for equal rights for gay men and lesbians, making passage of a gay rights bill a priority during the 2001 legislative session. Glendening has spoken often of his brother, Bruce, who died of complications from AIDS. Glendening said his brother was forced to hide his sexual orientation during a 19-year career in the Air Force.

Post spokeswoman Lisa Bolton said the newspaper has had a policy for about three years of accepting paid announcements from same-sex couples for its Friday "Celebrations" page. But she said the paper has run no announcements because "no one has chosen to be published." The Sun this week stopped running free wedding announcements in its Sunday editions. The paper will now charge for announcements.
"To date, we have not received any requests," said Lenora Howze, the paper's vice president for advertising. "When we do, we're willing to look at what our policy should be on the matter." Tom Marquardt, executive editor of The Capital, said his newspaper has a policy against publishing notices of same-sex ceremonies, reflecting the wishes of its generally conservative subscribers. "We believe that their feeling is, this is not appropriate for a family newspaper," he said.

Douglas Stiegler of Randallstown, executive director of the Family Protection Agency, said he is disappointed by the governor's letter. Stiegler said that if a newspaper decides to comply with Glendening's request, "I would do everything I could to alert the public to discourage the reading of the newspaper." David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay advocacy group, said he was not surprised by the letters because Glendening has been a longtime friend to gays and lesbians.

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