Cost of Equality

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I have written elsewhere about how the costs imposed on same-sex couples to have their relationships recognized can be reconceptualized as a tax on them. The Advocate has another example of such a cost–this one imposed privately but relying on the public denial of recognition to/imposition of costs on same-sex couples as a reason for asking same-sex couples to pay for privileges that heterosexuals take for granted:

When John Christopher Millican died June 11, his partner of 10 years, Terrance James, filled out paperwork to have his obituary run in the local paper, The Batesville Daily Guard. When the obit was published, however, it did not include James’s name, but it did list Millican’s deceased parents and surviving siblings, with whom he had little contact, according to the Center for Artistic Revolution, an Arkansas gay rights group.

James complained, but an editor for the Daily Guard told him the paper has a policy against printing names of unmarried partners and cited the fact that Arkansas does not recognize same-sex unions. She told him, however, that the paper would run a paid obituary for $85 that would include any information he wanted. (Most smaller newspapers run obituaries free of charge; in larger cities, the obits of prominent people run as news items, while other death notices carry a fee.) This led to an action call on and coverage in many gay news outlets.

Put differently, the newspaper is happy to recognize different-sex couples for free and will do the same for same-sex couples, if they pay them $85!

The solution? GLAAD is going to pay the $85 fee and the newspaper is going to donate the money to a charity chosen by Terrence James. The newspaper is also going to revise its policy–precisely how was unspecified–“to avoid this situation arising again.”

Why did GLAAD pay the $85? If this is really a matter of equality and, in GLAAD’s words, an “awful injustice,” shouldn’t the fee have been waived instead of being donated to charity? Wouldn’t that have been an appropriate first step toward correcting and revising this insulting and demeaning policy?

-Tony Infanti


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