Gay Omission

Arkansas Newspaper Omits the Surviving Same-Sex Partner from Obit, Claims We Are Akin to “Pets”

When it became clear that John Christopher Millican would not recover, his partner of 10 years, Terrance James, was the only person at his side. Alone, he made the difficult decision to end the life support. Mr. Millican passed away on June 11th of this year.

Wrought with grief, Mr. James filled out the paperwork for his late partner’s obituary for the local publication, the Batesville Guard. When the obituary ran, however, it listed the names of Millican’s deceased parents, his siblings, with whom he had little contact, but no mention of Terrance James or even that there was a surviving partner.

We called the Batesville Guard and spoke to Pat Jones, the general manager. She quickly became defensive and told us that we could call her son Oscar, who is a lawyer. She had obviously been through this phone call several times already. When questioned, Pat told Queerty “It’s not a gay thing. We don’t list unmarried couples, in-laws, or pets in the free obituaries.”

But for a fee of $85, they would print whatever Mr. James wanted. Feeling the pressure,  she told us that she took in a foster son who turned out to be gay and that she loves him all the same. We wonder whether she would omit his partner from an obituary. Not to mention his pets. She said that they “are looking into the policy.” If you’d like to let the Batesville Guard know your thoughts on the matter you can reach it at 870-793-2383 or [email protected]

Unsure of where to turn, Mr. James contacted the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), which is the leading LGBT equality group in Arkansas. CAR posted a note to Facebook that has garnered some action. Randi Romo Executive Director of CAR told Queerty: “We feel that it is just as ludicrous and heinous to omit a common law husband or wife as it is to omit Mr. James. We would like to see the paper apologize to Mr. James, to rescind the policy and to print the original obituary listing him as the surviving partner.”

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6/23/11 – Editor’s Note – The spelling of Randi Romo’s name has been corrected.

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  • Pat Duffy

    Welcome to the South.

  • Rainfish

    I dunno, in Arkansas you can list your sister/daughter/wife as your surviving kin. So why not?

  • TMikel

    Yed gods and little fishes, it is 2011 and there can be no excuse for this sort of thing. It denigrated the life of the deceased as well as the relationship. I have emailed Ms. Jones to express my feelings.

  • Nick

    Another reason not to live in Arkansas

  • Mike

    The Wedding Post of Arkansas did the same thing earlier this month. They got a lot of protests but kept firm. They also called same-sex relationships “unnatural.” -Publisher, Arkansas’ GLBT Magazine

  • Mike

    And the CAR director’s name should be spelled “Randi Romo,” she is a woman.

  • Morte

    @Pat Duffy Don’t lump us all in with Arkansas. In Alabama, they’ll put whoever you want on the obit.

  • Mac McNeill

    What do you expect from Arkansas. I would bet they would list your sister as spouse if you were married to each other. Arkansas and Nevada are probalby two of a kind.

  • chpinnlr

    @Mike: I’ve lived in central Arkansas for 20= years and I didn’t know that we had a localy published GLBT magazine! As for the sister/spouse comments, thats not nice Ya’ll, I aint sayin it’s wrong but it aint nice! Seriously, this is really a shitty thing for this little rag of a newspaper to do to someone that just lost a loved one, incredibly stupid and cruel!

  • AlterPride Project

    I don’t know all the facts, but frankly if it’s their policy not to include unwed couples, then I don’t see how they are being discriminatory by enforcing it consistently. It appears to me the real problem is having an outdated and overly constrictive obituary policy.

  • AlterPride Project

    Here’s a question? For people who live in a polyamorous relationship household, how many obituaries in America would print this without any objection:

    “John McMillen was survived by his five domestic partners Jill Winters, Anna Strickland, Sarah Rose, Jonathan Trugard, and Travis Porter.”

  • chrissie riot

    I really don’t understand how people an be so cruel because something disagrees with their ideology. I really don’t know how they don’t realize how cruel they’re being.

  • Mookie

    It is only a “free” press…if you own the press.

  • Trey

    @AlterPride Project: I agree with you. News mediums have an obligation to be consistent. Opening that door without properly updating their policy could turn out to be a nightmare for the publication. Granted, the policy should be updated, but its not something that an Editor can do on-the-spot.

  • Mike

    @chpinnlr: We’ve only been around Arkansas since last December. In LR you can pick it up at Discovery/Triniti/Pulse and at Inz & Outz. They’re also available in Fayetteville, Eureka Springs and Hot Springs.

  • Jessica Sideways

    @Nick: Agreed. I’m glad I live in Denver, where they aren’t as bass ackwards.

Comments are closed.