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Public celebrations 

The New York Times announced this month that it will start running same-sex commitment announcements on its celebrated (and much-read) "Weddings" page, now to be called "Weddings/Celebrations." The Fayetteville Observer got a lot of attention last month for its decision to run a wedding announcement from a gay couple. But what most people in the Triangle may not realize is that the two local dailies, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in Durham, both say they'll run similar announcements.

They only reason they haven't, they say, is because no one has ever asked for one.

The Fayetteville paper, which has a circulation of 64,000, ran the announcement of the marriage of Richard Jernigan and John Nitzsche on July 21. Editor and publisher Charles Broadwell says he ran the announcement because the couple was married in Vermont, the only state where "civil unions" of same-sex couples are legal. It stirred local controversy, with letter writers saying the paper shouldn't have run them by a 2-1 margin. The issue even made its way into the pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Broadwell explained his move in an editorial, saying that "refusing such an announcement--which we print for free, along with most of the more standard announcements--would be hypocritical or even discriminatory." He concluded that his newspaper might be among the first in North Carolina to publish a same-sex wedding announcement.

He may be right, but it's not because other newspapers in the state won't take the announcements. At The News & Observer, says Cathy Wallace, of the paper's Special Occasions Department, "Gay couples can announce their weddings like heterosexual couples; there are no restrictions. This policy has been in place for 12 years, but nobody ever wanted to run one." To ease gay couples' legal dilemma about announcing a "wedding" that is illegal in North Carolina, The N&O offers the opportunity to publish the event under the headline "commitment ceremony." Though people have asked about it, no gay couple has ever ended up running an announcement. Parts of the reason may be the cost-The N&O charges $158.40 for a wedding announcement with a single-column picture and 15 lines of text.

The Herald-Sun has the same policy. "As long as they pay the charge, we run the announcement," says Thelma Hester, responsible for wedding announcements at the paper. Like The N&O, The Herald-Sun makes no difference between an official, state-sanctioned wedding (so far only legal in Vermont) and a "commitment ceremony". The only reason one hasn't been run is because no one has requested it.

So, here is a good deal: for just $158.40 you could make history--in the Triangle, at least.


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