Looks like The Dallas Morning News is going to considerable lengths to defend its ban on same-sex wedding announcements.
Mark Reed-Walkup, who’s filed a discrimination complaint against the newspaper for refusing to publish his paid same-sex wedding ad, sent over a copy of the legal response he received via certified letter last week from the DMN’s attorneys, Jackson Walker LLP. (Download a copy of the the legal document here and the letter here.)
In the DMN’s response, or “Original Answer to Complainant Mark Reed-Walkup’s Original Complaint,” Paul Watler of Jackson Walker LLP argues that wedding announcements don’t qualify as a public accommodation under the city of Dallas’ ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Watler also argues that Reed-Walkup and his husband, Dante Walkup, aren’t legally married in Texas, and that any effort by the city to prosecute The DMN would violate the newspaper’s First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press.
Reed-Walkup said he was shocked to receive the letter.
“My first reaction was, I thought we were getting sued,” Reed-Walkup said. “I thought it was very intimidating that we would receive a response from the law firm, and that they were not following the process set up by the Fair Housing Office.
“The maximum fine, worst-case scenario, if this did get prosecuted, is only $500,” Reed-Walkup said, adding that the newspaper likely has already spent more than that in attorney’s fees. “It’s not like a lawsuit where we’re trying to go after them to recover financially for the discrimination we feel we’ve experienced. It’s just trying to get them to the table. The whole spirit of the public accommodations law is to try to work it out between the two parties without getting attorneys involved.”