ALLENTOWN, Pa. A longtime columnist and features writer for The Morning Call of Allentown said June 23 that he was suspended from the newspaper for serving as the grand marshal of a gay Pride parade.
Frank Whelan, who is gay, said he was suspended for two days without pay over what the newspaper called a violation of its ethics policy, which prohibits employees from publicly associating themselves with causes.
Whelan, who has not worked since the parade, is planning to file a civil rights lawsuit against the paper and pursue the matter with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces laws against workplace discrimination.
“I was naive enough to believe The Morning Call would be happy [for me] because they are always talking about how they believe in diversity,” he said.
Morning Call spokeswoman Vicki C. Mayk said Whelan violated the paper’s code of ethics by marching in the parade on June 17. The ethics policy prohibits employees from participating in “public demonstrations in favor of or in opposition to a cause.” She pointed out that a news release issued by the parade’s organizer, Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley, stated that Whelan and his partner, Bob Wittman, were selected as grand marshals in part to highlight the need for “marriage equality.”
“We felt that clearly tied his participation to an issue,” Mayk said.
While declining to confirm that the paper suspended Whelan, Mayk said that he was not fired and that the paper would welcome his return. “We consider him a valued member of the editorial staff,” she said.
But Whelan, who has worked for the paper for 25 years and wrote a history column, said he intends to quit. “I would be emotionally ill; I would be wretching; I would be incapable of working with these people,” Whelan said. “I cannot go back into that building.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 30, 2006.