Texarkana paper refuses to print gay couple’s wedding announcement

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner  wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

Texarkana couple Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner plan to marry next weekend in Mexico and want their friends in the area to know about their upcoming union.

They tried to have a wedding announcement printed in the Texarkana Gazette, but the paper refused to run it because they are a same-sex couple.

“They refused us because we are a gay couple,” Cooks told KSLA News 12. “We were discriminated against. There’s no other reason not to have our picture in the paper.”

The couple has been together for more than a year and plans to marry in Mexico this coming Friday.

The Texarkana Gazette’s editor released a statement, explaining that it only publishes announcements for weddings that will be recognized in the state.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Fox 4 on Dallas’ failure to enforce ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination

 

I’m on vacation this week but I couldn’t resist putting this up. Before I left on Friday for an undisclosed location, I got a call from Peter Daut at Fox 4. He wanted me to put him in touch with Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, the local gay couple that filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement. Peter had seen our post on Friday saying that despite 53 complaints file in nine years, the city has never prosecuted a single case under its ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. So I connected Peter with Mark, and above is the result. It’s a good story that brings needed attention to the issue, but I should note that there is a fact error: The report says the case isn’t going anywhere because sexual orientation isn’t a protected class. Not true. Sexual orientation is a protected class in the city of Dallas, and that’s the whole point. There’s an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and people have been filing complaints under it, but the City Attorney’s Office isn’t doing anything with them. Peter is right when he says the complaint isn’t going anywhere. But he’s wrong about the reason why. Also, he should have given us credit.

—  John Wright

Gay couple complains about city’s handling of discrimination complaint against Morning News

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A few weeks ago we reported that two Dallas council members are reviewing the city’s handling of complaints filed under an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We’re still awaiting the results of that review, as well as the city’s response to an open records request filed by Dallas Voice for statistics related to complaints filed under the ordinance.

In the meantime, a gay couple who recently filed a complaint under the ordinance is complaining about the city’s handling of the matter. Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup filed a complaint against The Dallas Morning News, which refuses to publish same-sex marriage announcements in its Weddings section. The couple claims the DMN policy is a violation of the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In a letter to Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, the Walkups said it’s been more than 60 days since they filed their complaint, and they haven’t heard anything from the city. The Fair Housing Office is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance. Below is a copy of the couple’s e-mail, which they forwarded to Dallas Voice as well as City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano:

Hi Beverly,

It has been over 60 days since we formally filed a complaint against the DMN for discrimination based on our sexual orientation. As you recall, my husband and I had a legal wedding on 12/10/2010 and tried to submit our paid wedding announcement to the Dallas Morning News and we were denied equal access to this public accommodation. Our ad was refused and money refunded based on the Texas ban on SSM.

We reached out to you 30 days ago to seek a status on our case and you told us to “be patient” and we have been. After 60 days, we must say that the lack of any follow-up to our case has been an extreme disappointment. We are a customer of the City of Dallas and your department has not done anything to reach out to us to advise us of any updates about our case.

We expect better service from the people we pay to enforce our laws and there should be no excuse to the lack of follow-up on our discrimination complaint. Please advise when we can expect an update from your department.

Mark & Dante Walkup

—  John Wright

It’s finally official

Reed, Walkup travel to D.C. for 2nd wedding after officials invalidate October Skype ceremony

John Wright  |  wright@dallasvoice.com

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
NEWLYWEDS AGAIN | Mark Reed-Walkup, right, and his husband, Dante Walkup, were married a second time in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy Mark Reed-Walkup)

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since remarried and refiled a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said Thursday, Jan. 6, that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony at DallasVoice.com).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” made international news, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said Thursday, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype marriage invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it.

“We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family,”

Reed-Walkup said. “In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid.

They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A Dallas ordinance passed in 2002 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” instead of “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Gay Dallas couple re-marries at Jefferson Memorial after Skype wedding declared invalid

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup.

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since re-married and re-filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said today that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony below).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W-Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” went viral, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said today, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype wedding invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it. We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family. In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid. They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city, Reed-Walkup said.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A 2002 Dallas ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” but not “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning both same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

—  John Wright

Gay couple married via Skype files complaint against DMN for not publishing announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C. via Skype.

Reed- Walkup said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section. But the newspaper has refused due to a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy reportedly is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, constitute a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, said she didn’t receive the complaint until Monday.

“We just got it,” Davis said Monday afternoon. “I haven’t had time to make an assessment yet.”

The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright