Local Newspaper Runs Beautiful Story on Gay Wedding… and Readers Flip Out

The Laurel Leader-Call recently ran a front page story by reporter Cassidi Bush celebrating the first ever gay wedding ceremony in the area (even if the marriage is not legally recognized):

Just one thing… the paper is based out of Mississippi.

And people went crazy:

“The majority of people in Mississippi oppose gay marriage,” [owner Jim Cegielski] tells me, “but we didn’t know the reaction was going to be as vicious and hateful and as widespread as it was.

“In the first week, before the backlash to the backlash, the calls were 100% negative,” says Cegielski. Two advertisers pulled their ads and 40 people canceled their subscriptions. (The 7,500-circulation paper is published Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.)

There’s good news, though. After Ashton Pittman (who previously exposed the ministry of anti-gay Christian pastor Damon Thompson) wrote about the backlash at Deep South Progressive, and Rachel Maddow tweeted about the story, the sympathetic responses began pouring in:

“Our phones have blown up ever since,” says the Leader-Call owner. “We’ve probably had 400 phone calls and 99% of them have been supportive.” The paper has added a new advertiser — a dog grooming business in Hattiesburg — and 100 new subscribers, almost all of them outside of Mississippi.

That. Is. Awesome.

There are way more of us than them, and I’m glad the people at the newspaper eventually experienced the love instead of the presumably-Christian hate.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • CanadianNihilist

    Good stuff.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “but we didn’t know the reaction was going to be as vicious and hateful and as widespread as it was.”


    May god help those who expect Christianity’s love, peace, and tolerance to be unconditional. Conform or else!!

  • opsarche

    what’s the harm of little idi*ts?


  • RobertoTheChi

    Christians and their christ-like love..

  • starskeptic

    More like two whole people who found each other – way cooler…

  • Dezzydez

    Yup. It’s expected that christians would spew hate toward this couple despite their claims of a loving religion.

  • ortcutt

    I’m reluctant to call something a “wedding” if it doesn’t result in a marriage. If the state doesn’t recognize you as married, then you aren’t married. That’s the entire point of the marriage equality movement.

  • Pawel Samson

    I liked what the the paper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, had to say about the backlash:

    “I took the bulk of the irate phone calls from people who called the paper to complain. Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the headline, “Historic Wedding,” and the fact that we chose to put the story on the front page. My answer to the “Historic Wedding” headline is pretty simple. You don’t have like something for it to be historic.

    The holocaust, bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Black Sox scandal are all historic. I’m in no way comparing the downtown wedding of two females to any of those events (even though some of you made it quite clear that you think gay marriage is much worse).”

    if you’ve ever been to Laurel, you’d understand how big this guy’s balls are. It’s one of the most conservative places in the country.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    See I think that’s exactly the problem. The idea of marriage to many people includes the government, Marriage is simply a unity of parts; everything else is up to you. If two consenting adults agree to be married, then I say they’re married.

  • Achron Timeless

    So their wave of hate was stopped in its tracks by sandbags of compassion.

    Funny how every time they think they’re the majority, they find out they’re wrong.

  • ortcutt

    You can say that but you’d be wrong. Marriage is a legal category, and in order to marry, you have to meet the legal conditions of marriage.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    My idea of marriage is broader than yours. That’s all.

  • ortcutt

    OK, but making it broader might include things that aren’t actually marriage. I don’t recommend taking an broad approach when you do financial and estate planning, deal with insurance companies, file your taxes, or anything else regarding the outside world.

  • Pepe

    Man I wish I had such balls!

  • TiltedHorizon

    Nah. Misses the romance aspect I think. I was whole before I met my Wife, I am still whole while I’m with her, but without her I would be halved, and incomplete.

  • Stev84

    A wedding and a marriage are two totally different things. You can have either one without the other

  • Stev84

    It’s Mississippi. They only just got around to abolishing slavery a few days ago. Maybe in another 150 years they can deal with same-sex marriage

  • Bill S.

    Ugh I hate this meme that’s been going around about Mississippi and slavery. The Constitution only requires a state legislature to approve an amendment before that state is considered to have ratified it. This happened in Mississippi in 1995. Apparently, the declaration that the state ratified the amendment was not passed on to the state registrar or whomever and that is what happened a few days ago. This extra step is not actually required nor does it mean anything.

    Not only this, but the 13th Amendment was ratified in the 1860s. Even states that choose not to ratify amendments are still bound by those amendments once they become part of the Constitution.

  • starskeptic

    If you’d be incomplete without her – then you need to work on yourself; Romance much better with brain component than without.

  • starskeptic

    Funny – and deeply satisfying…

  • Stev84

    Even 1995 is a ridiculously long time. And yeah unconstitutional laws aren’t enforceable, which is why there is no reason to not immediately repeal them. But many politicians actually make a show out of keeping them on the books to voice their disapproval of certain people.

  • kaydenpat

    “The majority of people in Mississippi oppose gay marriage,” [owner Jim Cegielski] tells me, “but we didn’t know the reaction was going to be as vicious and hateful and as widespread as it was.”

    I assume a red state like Mississippi is just getting over the end of segregation and the sanctioning of interracial marriages. Mississippi just formally ratified the 13th amendment on February 7th due to an oversight.


    Good for the newspaper owner for presenting a story about a same sex marriage even knowing he was going to face a backlash.

  • David Starner

    Marriage is a legal category to a lawyer. It’s a religious category to a priest. To the rest of us, it’s more subtle and complex then either. Government defines a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean they have exclusive control over what those things mean.

  • ortcutt

    I would argue that if a priest says that two people are married, but the legal jurisdiction does not, then they aren’t married. The state isn’t just another authority among many. When the state speaks, It occupies the field.

  • David Starner

    When Hitler said that Jews are not people, that didn’t mean that Jews were not people. When the state speaks, it can dictate a lot of things, but it cannot take away the right of people to associate ideas with words, to accept that a certain pair (or group) of people is in a marriage equal of any other.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    Serious respect to Jim Cegielski, and a big wild Fuck Off to all of the conservative assholes in Laurel.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    these comments prompt me to once again call for getting the govt out of the marriage business.

    i will remain happily single for the rest of my life. i’m divorced and won’t ever marry again. why should i be punished by laws and regulations and insurance categories for that?

    and why does the government have any business in my personal relationships (i have many) anyways? it doesn’t seem to care that i date people. why does it care if i marry?

    marriage equality is great. total equality for all gays and lesbians and asexuals and people everywhere is better. i am so sick and tired (altho happy to see the progress being made) of people treating gay marriage equality as the same thing/most important thing as/instead of real, full equality.

    FSM bless these brave women. if their celebrant and they agree they are “married” good for them, i agree. but it’s not a “real” thing, except where the government and corporations decide and enforce that it is. i think this is wrong. your relationship is your business, and no one else’s except those you want to include in that standing.

    marriage and religion have a lot in common. just sayin.

  • DougI

    How soon until a pastor thinks it’s a brilliant idea to revive the Christian tradition of burning the written word?

  • TiltedHorizon

    I think I’ll keep with the mindset and style of romance that has worked for so well me for the past 20 years.

  • Rain

    One of them has brain cancer, as was hinted at in the bold subheading: “If chemo doesn’t work, we don’t know what happens after that,” –Crystal Craven. So if “the calls were 100% negative”, then presumably none of them offered their prayers.

  • starskeptic

    Sounds like a prison sentence – I’ll take my romance pathology-free, thanks.

  • ortcutt

    What does “getting the govt out of the marriage business” mean? Does that mean having no legal status of marriage at all? Why would people who are happy with marriage want that at all? I’m not a knee-jerk anti-government person, so I don’t have the negative associations that some people do to the idea that that people undertake legal arrangements like marriage in their personal lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    He said he was complete before he met her, but he feels like he’d be halved without her now. It’s not an expression of codependency, but a poetic image of how much love he feels for her. You know, that whole need her because you love her, don’t love her because you need her thing.

    I’m not thinking he’s the one who needs to work on his interpersonal understanding skills.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Your curt responses to my polite and lighthearted posts infer, not that you don’t agree, but that you have no basis of understanding of such emotion. To equate a successful marriage with prison sentence and to label such expression of emotion as a pathology, you are either very bitter or suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m leaning towards the latter as your posts have come off as disconnected and aloof.

  • starskeptic

    Writing that two whole people finding each other is missing the “romance aspect” comes off as much more “disconnected and aloof” than anything I’ve written.

  • starskeptic

    My understanding skills are functioning just fine, thank you; now – your reading skills, on the other hand…that’s another story…

  • TiltedHorizon

    “You complete me.” – Jerry Maguire

    Did you see the movie? If you did, were you pointing out to all who would listen that Tom Cruise was already whole? Classic AS.

  • starskeptic

    They must teach Tom Cruise in the upper level psychiatry classes – I’d ask for a refund if I were you.
    I wasn’t equating “successful marriage with (a) prison sentence” – merely suggesting that marriage to you must feel like one…you seem to feel the need to “prove” the success of yours, sounding like a classic ASS in the process. All you’re succeeding in doing is pushing me toward a diabetic coma.

  • TiltedHorizon

    AS = Asperger’s Syndrome. I was not calling you an ‘ASS’.

  • Stev84

    I prefer a middle ground. There are certainly way, way too many rights and benefits that are needlessly tied to marriage these days. A good example is next of kin status. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to designate anyone as your next kin with a notarized contract.

    But it’s also completely unrealistic to get rid of marriage as a legal construct entirely. It has its uses. It’s just overused by the government.

  • starskeptic

    An ‘A+’ for your firm grasp on the obvious…

  • TiltedHorizon

    I do have a firm grasp on the obvious, for instance, you are likely male, middle age, introverted, and not married, very likely single. Basically, you are not in a position to judge as the only way you can keep your romance pathology-free, as you call it, is to remove yourself from it.

  • starskeptic

    You’re oblivious to the obvious – and waded through a river of sarcasm to miss it. From sounding like a classic ASS to sounding like a professional one – by all means, keep digging.

  • TiltedHorizon

    So you are saying I’m wrong about you then?

  • starskeptic

    That, and on a great many other things, I’d imagine…

  • TiltedHorizon

    Now I get to add liar to the list.

  • starskeptic

    Just replace “Fisherman” – no need to add at all.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I guessed you were a male, sufferer of Asperger’s, middle age, introverted, and not married, very likely single. Since you invited me to keep digging I did. Seem I was right on all counts. Now I can say, unequivocally, that you are a liar. Hi Tom, you many have few, to no friends, but, better 4 quarters than 100 pennies, right?

  • starskeptic

    The digging I referred to, ass-hat – was the hole that you were making for yourself in the process from only sounding like an ass to showing yourself to actually being one: mission accomplished. No, you are not “right on all counts”, not by a long shot – what you are, is a control-freak who is deeply invested in maintaining his own image and will try to destroy anyone who will challenge that image; that’s “the mindset and style of romance that has worked for so well me for the past 20 years.” – what a prize you are.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “right on all counts”, not by a long shot”

    Sure I am Tom. If I was not, you would not be so opposed to socially accepted idioms. You ventured down this route because I used the words “other half”, a well known and established poetic endearment, in my comment of their union. I tried to explain the significance by example, choosing my marriage to cite, you labeled it a pathology. When David Kopp tried to explain it, you insulted him as well. Clearly your issue is not with me but with anyone who recognizes the importance of these emotional components. The ‘control-freak’ here is the one who wants to sterilize emotion solely because he finds it messy and unquantifiable. Do yourself a favor; smile, enable some “emotional fragility”, and try an activity that requires another person.

  • starskeptic

    No, not even in the ball-park – I ventured down this route because your first response to me was essentially “no, that doesn’t fit my definition of romance, therefore it ‘Misses the romance aspect’ “; I take exception to a dick-head who thinks they have the inside-line on what constitutes ‘romance’ – you inferred the rest…and did a miserable job at it – maybe if you picked a different movie reference to base your diagnostic efforts on – say, like “I see half-people”, for instance. My issue, most assuredly is with you because you’re simply a bully who hates not getting his way. David Kopp insulted me and I insulted him back – if I did it over, I would have handled that differently, but that’s the limitations of not dealing with others face-to-face. I suspect you spend a great deal of effort to seem “polite and lighthearted” until someone crosses you – that’s pathology writ large. Do yourself a favor, take a deep breath – and remember that it’s not all about you.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “Do yourself a favor, take a deep breath – and remember that it’s not all about you.”

    I did that when I stated: “Clearly your issue is not with me”.

    “I ventured down this route because your first response to me was essentially “no, that doesn’t fit my definition of romance,”

    Actually, my response was “Nah. Misses the romance aspect I think.” Note use of the words “I think”, it speaks to an opinion, I even ended it with a little self deprecation by labeling my own opinion as “harlequin novel-esk”and “cheesy”. The rest is all you failing to take accountability for a condition you know you have. Were you capable of empathy you would have registered the point as David Kopp did. Instead you chose to respond solely because the words “other half” were used.

    You Chiropractor friend is right, you seriously lack “social empathy”.

  • starskeptic

    I did that when I stated: “Clearly your issue is not with me”

    – no, what you’re doing there is projecting – something you appear to be very good at. And look up the word “essentially” – I wasn’t quoting you verbatim, rather how your comment read (which is exactly the reasoning you have used in other posts, btw).
    I’m sure your “little self deprecation” act fools a lot of people – I don’t happen to be one of them. “The rest is all you failing to take accountability” for your attitude by striking back at someone who disagrees with you – and your attempt at ‘intimidation through diagnosis’ is wearing thin. “social empathy” is your phrase and an attempt at using someone else’s opinion to bolster your own fragile ego – more projection, more bullying; truly, you have earned being called an ass.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “I’m sure your “little self deprecation” act fools a lot of people – I don’t happen to be one of them.”

    Classic example of grandiosity, common in AS. Much easier for you to believe it to be an act, which you are to smart for, than accept the likelihood that you misinterpreted the statement, also common in AS. This is why you have few to no friends Tom, cause it is always the other person’s fault, never yours.

  • starskeptic

    You’re still at it?! More projection, more bluster, more threats, more deflection of your inability to comprehend simple sentences – yada yada yada. Classic example of a bully who thinks retaliation constitutes an argument strategy.
    Yup, that’s how “whole” people behave, all right – you’ve convinced me – my condolences to your wife.
    All this pissing contest has accomplished is enabling you in show-casing your limited skill-set in sounding superior.

    Apologies to everyone else in the room who had to put up the mutual testosterone exhibit and congratulations to Jessica and Crystal.

  • TiltedHorizon

    How am I *still* at it? That post is a day old, I’ve moved on, so should you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashtonelijah Ashton Elijah Pittman

    Thank you for sharing this story! The outpouring has been amazing and I couldn’t be more proud of this little small town newspaper. Despite the loss of subscribers and advertisers, they are proud of what they’ve done and have no intention of backing down. The amount of love they’ve received from around the world has been absolutely insane in the best way possible.