August 7, 2008

Strange subject for the funny pages?

Back in 1990, no mainstream American newspaper printed same-sex marriage announcements. But by the summer of 2002, when the New York Times printed its first, there were 115 doing so. By 2004, a list compiled by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) showed 504 newspapers printing them -- approximately one-third of the U.S.'s 1,500 dailies.

That list, published by Partners Task Force, included the Journal Times, Kenosha News and Wisconsin State Journal. No doubt, there are more today.

I am not a regular reader of the local paper's wedding announcements, but a disapproving letter to the editor on June 15 confirms that the JT does indeed publish same-sex announcements, although whether this was its first, as the letter states, is something I don't know.

Thomas Rivers of Racine wrote: "By publishing a photo and write up of a homosexual “marriage” in the Sunday paper the Journal has shown a blatant disregard for the values espoused by the vast majority of the citizens, attempted to legitimize that which is unlawful in Wisconsin, and insulted the One who instituted marriage in the beginning.

"I don’t suppose it is necessary to again go over the facts that such unions are described by God as an abomination, a sin, and a behavior that will keep one out of heaven. All people know this to be so. Let us hope this radical first by The Journal Times will also be the last."

But even if wedding pages have given way to the growing reality of same-sex marriages being conducted in California, Massachusetts, the Netherlands and a few other places, and commitment services being held right here in River City (JT columnist Mike Moore wrote on June 1 of one conducted at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church) -- I was still surprised to have the subject show up in an unlikely place this week: the Journal Times' comics page.

There it was in For Better or Worse, a strip directly above Peanuts, and to the right of Dilbert; not a plot point but rather a gratuitous same-sex marriage reference. I've long given up on the quaint notion that the Funny Pages are supposed to be funny -- but this still struck me as out of place.


  1. The Comics pages are hardly new to the fight. Walt Kelly's Pogo was ahead of the curve. Doonesbury and Bloom County pointed up the foibles of several administrations.

    For Better Or Worse, Funky Winkerbean and LuAnn have all tackled tough cultural issues over the last two decades.

    The funny pages are a mirror to our world and they accurately reflect the way we live our lives. That may include things that make some of us uncomfortable. Isn't it wonderful that we live in a country that allows that?

  2. Gratuitous?!

    The FBOW character of Lawrence has been in the strip since he was a child, and came out as gay well over a decade ago. That his best friend, Michael, would ask him at a wedding where his services as a florist have been hired if he ever intended to get married to his partner is hardly gratuitous.

    I realize that 1.2 million of my fellow Wisconsinites have voted to write into the state constitution that my family is intrinsically inferior to theirs and undeserving of the rights they take for granted. As a gay musician, I've been asked to take part in several different-sex weddings -- but I'm seriously questioning the wisdom of continuing to do so.