Newspaper Refuses to Run Couple’s Marriage Announcement, in Violation of Dallas’ Non-Discrimination in Public Accommodations Ordinance
Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, a Dallas area same sex couple, announced today that they have filed a non-discrimination claim against the Dallas Morning News for the newspaper’s refusal to run their wedding announcement. The couple, married December 10th in a ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, placed and paid for a wedding announcement in the Dallas Morning News. However, Jim Moroney, chief executive and publisher of the Dallas Morning News, refused to run the couple’s announcement, citing Texas’ discriminatory law barring same-sex couples from legal, civil marriage in the state.
The couple filed a complaint on December 27, 2010, with the city of Dallas’ Fair Housing Office due to the newspaper’s violation of Chapter 46 “Unlawful Discriminatory Practices Relating to Sexual Orientation,” which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations.
According to James Donovan in the Brooklyn Law Review, “If a newspaper is a public accommodation, then its refusal to grant access to the society pages to gay men and lesbians for the purpose of announcing their unions, likely would violate the nondiscrimination ordinance. Withholding that service would deny privileges available from the newspaper, such as appearance in the society pages, based on the prohibited criterion of sexual orientation.”
On May 8, 2002, the Dallas City Council adopted Chapter 46, “Unlawful Discriminatory Practices Relating to Sexual Orientation.” Chapter 46 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. This ordinance became effective on October 1, 2002. The full Chapter 46 ordinance reads:
“It is the policy of the city of Dallas to bring about through fair, orderly, and lawful procedures the opportunity for every person to obtain employment, access to all places of public accommodation, and housing, without regard to sexual orientation. This policy is based upon recognition of the rights of every individual to work and earn wages through gainful employment, to obtain and enjoy goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations in all places of public accommodation, and to obtain housing. The denial or deprivation of these rights because of sexual orientation is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Dallas and is within the power and responsibility of the city to prevent.”
To find out more about the city of Dallas’ Fair Housing Office and the “Unlawful Discriminatory Practices Relating to Sexual Orientation” ordinance.
Mark Reed-Walkup said, "We strongly believe paid wedding announcements constitute a public accommodation and segregating our announcement to the 'commitment' section is treating our legal marriage as 'less than' other married couples. It is blatant discrimination, as well as false advertising. We had a legal wedding and not a commitment ceremony."
In addition to filing the complaint with the Dallas’ Fair Housing Office, Change.org created an online petition asking the Dallas Morning News to honor their request and payment, since they had been legally married in another jurisdiction. The petition now has over 9,000 signatures from across the country. To view and/or sign the petition.
Reed-Walkup is a board member of GetEQUAL – a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – and married Walkup via Skype, with a ceremony in Dallas with family and friends, and an officiant in Washington, DC. After that marriage was annulled in DC, the couple traveled to DC themselves, marrying again in the nation's capital. The couple's unconventional wedding has generated a good deal of attention nationally. Though there is no legal precedent for same-sex couples to marry via Skype, there is precedent for "e-weddings" among active-duty military couples.