The Denver Post commemorated yesterday’s passage of civil unions in Colorado’s House with a front-page picture of Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D) kissing his partner Greg Wertsch — complete with a bottle of formula on the desk that belongs to their foster child. Anticipating negative reactions from readers, the editors published a defense for running the picture, arguing that it “shows the truth, no matter how objectionable” [see update below]:
One of the missions as journalists is to take our readers where they can’t go, and the speaker’s office is definitely one of those places. Ferrandino, who is gay, has been fighting to get this bill passed for at least the last three years, and he spoke eloquently on the subject while the bill was being debated. So it made sense to get his perspective. [...]
We have received objections to our photographs of gay couples before, so we all knew there would likely be a negative reaction to running the picture of Ferrandino. The civil unions vote was historic for Colorado and celebrating it was not a surprise. That led one editor to note, “We have no issues showing a straight couple kissing on election night.”
Another detail that made the photo so compelling was the baby bottle on Ferrandino’s desk. It belongs to the foster child he and his partner have; given that the civil unions bill offered protections for children and families, it was another element that gave context.
There is a difference between a picture that people object to and an “objectionable” photo. It’s disappointing that the editorial board thought the decision was “difficult.” Indeed, the one editor’s observation is key: it’s not kissing that people object to — it’s homosexuality . What has proven to be one the most effective ways to shift people’s opinions on gay rights is knowing gay people and learning about their lives and their families. No number of objections changes the reality that the Speaker of the Colorado House is a gay man with a loving partner and child; and reporting on reality is never a difficult decision.
Editor Linda Shapley added a note clarifying a change to the originally posted headline:
After reading the comments, I’m altering the headline from “no matter how objectionable,” to “even if it offends some.” I’ve certainly dealt with some callers who are upset with the use of the photo, but my intent was not to label the photo (or the act) objectionable. As I’ve often said, everyone needs an editor, and I appreciate the comments. — Lin