The New Jersey Jewish Standard recently published a wedding announcement for a marriage between two Jewish men.
And then a week later they published an apology for having published the announcement, and said they wouldn't publish such announcements in the future; it seems some Orthodox rabbis complained.
I found the apology sad and depressing—and a little confusing, given that their stated main reason for apologizing was that they wanted to “draw the community together” rather than be divisive.
As it turned out, they kind of did draw the community together, though not at all as they'd intended: there are now over 400 reader comments in response to the apology, and the overwhelming majority of them object to the apology.
I'm not sure I've ever seen such a unified front among Internet commenters on any article anywhere before.
When I first looked, there were 80 comments, and only one of those supported the apology—and even that one noted that for consistency, the paper also ought to stop printing other things that the Orthodox community might object to, like announcements of events held on Shabbos.
I figured at the time that it was just that the anti-gay forces hadn't yet arrived at the site, and that there would be a backlash wave of commenters saying “You're doing the right thing by keeping those gays out of the newspaper.”
But that hasn't happened. There are a few comments that say things like that being gay is inconsistent with being Jewish, but somewhere on the order of 97% of the now-over-400 comments are objecting to the apology, and supportive of publishing same-sex marriage announcements.
Which I find really heartening.
Some of the comments go further than I can support. A bunch of them, for example, compare the Orthodox rabbis in question to Nazis (yep, Godwin's Law is proved true once again), and a bunch of others are generally vituperative. (Note to some of my Orthodox friends: reading some of those comments might be pretty rough going.)
But there are also a lot of lovely heartfelt clear statements of support for gay and lesbian members of the Jewish community. Including some such supportive comments from (non-Orthodox) rabbis, and—I'm especially pleased to see—several from members of the Orthodox community.
The next day, the publisher posted a followup statement noting that they had acted too quickly in apologizing, and that they're meeting with local rabbis and community leaders to try to come to some sort of workable conclusion.
There've been suggestions and speculations in a couple of contexts that the paper was worried that if Orthodox rabbis were to organize a boycott of the paper, and/or put pressure on the paper's advertisers, that could end the paper's existence; and thus the paper had no real choice but to give in to the pressure. If that's true (I have no idea whether it is or not), I don't envy the publisher and editors; but I hope they can find a way to survive as a newspaper while still publishing same-sex wedding announcements (and other things that some members of the community might object to). For example, if they do decide to continue publishing such announcements, I hope a lot of people will subscribe to support that decision.
Thanks to Shmuel for posting about this, and for providing most of the above links.