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Two men kissing Part 2: The counterattack

By Andy Alexander

First, there was the assault on The Post for publishing a photo of two men kissing. Now, the counterattack.

Tuesday's Omblog noted that The Post had taken heat from readers upset by the March 4 photo taken outside D.C. Court as the District began accepting license applications for same-sex marriages. In calls and e-mails, many readers said the image had offended their sensibilities. More than two dozen canceled their subscriptions.

But the Omblog item prompted a backlash. It was picked up by bloggers, wire services and broadcast outlets, prompting hundreds of e-mails, calls and online comments praising The Post. Those I’ve received are running more than 10-to-1 in support of the decision to run the photo. They’re coming from around the globe.

“It happened, it’s fact, and the photo was in no way offensive,” e-mailed Dylan Lacey of Brisbane, Australia. “I regret that you lost subscribers and that the Post will be financially worse off in some way, but hopefully your news subscribers will more than make up for it.”

Nearly 20 people who e-mailed or offered online comments said they wanted to fill the void left by those who canceled.

“It’s been a few years since I let my subscription lapse. The Post can count on my resubscription as a replacement for any one of the narrow-minded cancelers,” wrote one online commenter who goes by “scorbett1976.”

“I just subscribed to the paper for the first time since I moved out here 6 years ago BECAUSE of this!” added another commenter, “melissa4033.”

No response yet from The Post’s circulation department on how many people in recent days cited the photo as the reason for starting a subscription.

Michael Larabee, who handles letters to the editor for The Post, said he has received a handful of supportive letters after receiving a small number critical of The Post’s decision. He hopes to run several in Saturday’s “Free for All” section.

The D.C. Council voted in December to legalize same-sex marriage. The Post photo of Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga briefly kissing was taken March 3, the day the District began accepting marriage licenses. The District began issuing them this past Tuesday, and some same-sex couples immediately held marriage ceremonies.

Among those who e-mailed the ombudsman were several who applauded The Post’s decision to run the photo, but who also said they were afraid to openly express their support for fear of being victimized by friends, co-workers or family members who don’t know about, or don’t approve of, their sexual orientation.

The photo captured “a great step towards Civil Rights and Equality for all people,” e-mailed Brandon, who lives in suburban St. Louis. He asked that his last name not be used out of fear that he would receive “negative backlash” from family members who are “less than supportive of the fact that I’m homosexual.”

But some remain adamantly opposed to the photo.

“The Nation’s Capital is now Sodom and Gomorrah and it too will be destroyed, not by God, but by mankind,” wrote “Ward4DC,” an online commenter. “I hope the Washington Post will go out of business soon. Good riddance to the Washington Post.”

A commenter going by “battleground51” added: “Big, color photos of homosexuals hugging and smooching shows pure contempt for the values of the vast majority of Americans...I’m sure WaPo honchos think they are supporting a good cause. That’s their opinion only. It just does not reflect America, as a whole.”

But it does reflect what is happening in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal.

By Andy Alexander  | March 11, 2010; 2:41 PM ET
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Since when does publishing a photograph in the news section equal support for that photo's content? I hope most editorial staff members are in favor of gay marriage (I know I am), but just because you report an event doesn't mean you approve it.

I suppose those photos the Post ran of the earthquake damage in Haiti are proof that the Post supports devastating earthquakes. And obviously the Post is in favor of scandal-plagued politicians, and murderers, and recessions, and car bombings, and Redskins losses, and every other newsworthy occurrence it reports.

Posted by: simpleton1 | March 11, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you noticed my comment yesterday. It's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. I'm not surprised that this thing raced through the internet and picked up a whirlwind of supporting rants. There's a zillion homosexual activists that sit itching to latch onto something like this and rush to respond. It's like smacking a hornets nest with a stick.

I'll stop now so I will not ruffle any more of your gay subscribers' feathers further.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 11, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

@battleground51: The fact that the WaPo picked up your comment is why you should be proud of the newspaper. If, as you put it, the newspaper's audience is overwhelmingly in support of gay rights, the fact they picked up on you - by your own admission the minority opinion here - proves the newspaper is bigger than the individual stories it prints. it might - gasp! - actually care about what people think.

Posted by: DinSeattle | March 11, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Enough, already!

What we're really waiting for is your assessment of Sally Quinn's goof ball story of the tale of two weddings. You've had to have had plenty of complaints about it.

Is that why you went out of town for two weeks and then ignored your blog for a week after that? You just can't face Sally?

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | March 11, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Andrew's problem is that he cannot differentiate what is right or wrong in the journalism world from what is massively popular or unpopular. He has always responded to massive opposition or support for an item as the underlying reason for his attention, rather than whether or not it furthers the interests and adheres to the principles of journalism.

This is a case in point. The real objection is the Post's overt support for a social movement within its reporting pages rather than its editorial pages. He has always clamied that there is a bright line between the beliefs espoused on the Post's editorial pages and the content of its reporting pages.

This photograph which was staged to advocate for the same-sex marriage cause and offend those opposed is a case-in-point of the Post's advoocacy journalism, ranking the paper with the likes of Fox News and MSNBC as a purveyor of balanced reporting.

Posted by: krush01 | March 12, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Yup, I went to Sunday and now I'm going back to daily. Thank you, Washington Post, for being the paper I knew you could be!

Posted by: dougenglish | March 12, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Since when does publishing a photograph in the news section equal support for that photo's content? I hope most editorial staff members are in favor of gay marriage (I know I am), but just because you report an event doesn't mean you approve it.


So, you would have no objection if the Post published pictures of child molestation, right?

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | March 12, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

"So, you would have no objection if the Post published pictures of child molestation, right?"

Considering that one is against the law and one isn't - that one is a crime of power and violence against an individual who can't defend himself/herself and one is two people affirming love and commitment, it says a whole lot about you that you feel the need to equate them.

Look in the mirror lately - like what you see?

Posted by: hohandy1 | March 12, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I thought the photo was appropriate and decent. I could sense the love, joy, and hope that the newlyweds were feeling. Thank you for posting it, WP!

Posted by: NewMoon | March 12, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Considering that one is against the law and one isn't - that one is a crime of power and violence against an individual who can't defend himself/herself and one is two people affirming love and commitment, it says a whole lot about you that you feel the need to equate them.


Oh - you mean like Rodney King? No shortage of photographs there.

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | March 12, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Another YES! for the love and happiness obvious in the picture.

Posted by: hopefoot | March 12, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

@battleground51: I am neither homosexual nor an activist and I disagree with everything you have stated. It's nice to see that you believe so strongly in your own opinion that you fail to open your mind and see that two people in love committing their lives to one another is never a bad thing. It is a sad day when your (and others) narrow mind(s) can not see that.

Posted by: cthorpe1 | March 12, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Battleground51: (and to all those that sound REMOTELY like them), I ask you what ARE the core principles of ALL Americans?

To me they are 3 things, Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

Also, don't like it, leave it, go live in a place like Iran.

Posted by: ryu-knt | March 12, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

While it should not be an issue forever, and society is aging away from this fundamental unease, it's a part of our society whether anybody likes it or not.

Our society is composed of straight people, gay people, transgendered, bisexual, and accommodates a shocking amount of proclivities. I think many people might be shocked to discover how far the majority of Americans veer from this imaginary straight an narrow acceptable sexual assumption.

While I don't think overt sexualization in media is particularly good for kids, I carry that across the board to include the vast sexual innuendo throughout popular culture. But to leave some of it in, while pushing other parts out, is hypocritical.

Posted by: LangstonTate | March 12, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

That pic was tasteful and very sweet, an genuine expression of affection and happiness. Why would I mind if my child saw that? Oh no! He might learn to associate kissing with love and joy!

The ones to be afraid of are the people who think there's something wrong with that picture. I really can't imagine the darkness in the hearts of those who can't abide with love.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | March 12, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Two men kissing? Wow next thing you know it will be a picture of a nipple. The end is nigh in amurica.Hope the objectors never show up during the Toronto Gay Pride parade.

Posted by: ernestpayne | March 12, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga not only on their marriage, but on their image on the front cover of the Washington Post.

As we look back many years from now at this time period and the huge advance in civil rights represented by the legalization of gay marriage in Washington, DC, this picture will be remembered as a symbol of fairness and equality overcoming bigotry and fear.

One of these days, the notion that gay marriage was once illegal will seem unimaginable - just like its hard to fathom now how interracial marriage was ever banned. Thank God for progress, and for those who put themselves on the line to stand up for what is right - not only for themselves and others, but for those gay americans who will come after.

All the gay couples who have been married thus far are pioneers.

Posted by: bandit1972 | March 12, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to know what the "values of the vast majority of Americans" are according to battleground51. How can he speak for them, anyway? His is the viewpoint of a small-minded, ignorant individual.

Posted by: jake14 | March 12, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that the people canceling their subscriptions read the paper anyway -- the Post uses lots of multi-syllabic words. Maybe they got it for the comics.

I've been reading the late John Boswell's "Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe" and he makes the interesting point that there's never been a huge outcry about heterosexual sodomy.

Posted by: cossack2 | March 12, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

@hofbrauhausde: What a moronic comment. Pedophilia is an act of rape and mental control over a helpless child and does not equate with two loving adults who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. Kudos to the Post for running the picture.

Posted by: e69ndc | March 12, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I loved the photo, loved that DC is now recognizing same-sex marriages, and love that the messages are running 10-to-1 in support. My husband and I know a lovely couple in California that got married the last day they could, on Election Day, 2008. What a surprise, their marriage has in no way threatened ours.

Posted by: kentuckienne | March 12, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Is it upsetting readers because it is not offensive but rather a sweet portrait of two people who seem really happy and nice? I think opponents to gay marriage prefer outrageous photos to validate their fear and hate.

Posted by: Ivanna1 | March 12, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I have every right to be angry. They printed a picture of two guys kissing, which caused me to get an erection. The problem is that I'm heterosexual. So, in order to prove I didn't get this erection because of any homosexual tendencies, I am required to express my outrage at the mere existence of the picture.

/also, you can support WaPo without spending a cent:

Posted by: UrinalGum | March 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

A tired attempt to sell newspapers by engendering (if I may use the word) a controversy. "Quick, send out a reporter. A child is stuck in a well. Deathwatch."

Posted by: masonjahr | March 12, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

IDK which makes me more angry...two homos (vs heteros)kissing or the fact that they are of different races.
Or maybe it's just the red tie with the purple shirt. Eeewww.
But, seriously, I believe that homos (that's gays and lesbians)have the same right to be miserable (married) as heteros.
Did you know that the number one cause of divorce is marriage?!
Do you think they wore each other's ties?

Posted by: vamike2 | March 12, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

I guess these same negative sentiments were rampant among similar bigots within the population at that time in the 1960s when a mixed race couple was trying to live their own lives.

Posted by: habaneronegrito1 | March 13, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

To those who cancelled and those who started their subscriptions over this photo, I offer a third position. As a hetero progressive Christian, I was reassured by the decision to publish the photo. It has caused me to defer cancelling my subscription, which I've been on the verge of doing for some time.

If you're angry about degradation, just look at how badly the op-ed pages have degraded over the past couple of years, the increasing shoddiness of copy editing, the pervasive unjustifiable reliance on anonymous sources, the breakdown of the putative firewall between editorial and news staff, and the owners' questionable grasp of journalistic ethics.

If priapic turgidity appalls you, then the current rooster roster of superannuated neocon op-ed hacks is shocking -- shocking!

Those are the things that daily entice me to cancel, and they are a thousandfold more indicative of deep-seated problems than any photo could ever be. And yet, this photo has caused me to relent, at least for today.

Posted by: laboo | March 13, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I've been working for newspapers for more than 30 years and it never fails to amaze me how people get angry when a paper read by hundreds of thousands of people of all demographic and political leanings fails to reflect their personal prejudices. ("If you don't fire Jimmy Breslin, I'm gonna cancel my subscription!" Sure.)

Posted by: usemark1 | March 13, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I am getting really tired of the wowsers complaining about this or that picture in the Post because "their children might see it." Like their pornophobic fellow-travelers, the real issue is that THEY don't want to see it, but realize that no one would have any sympathy for their argument to ban the picture on those grounds. They are simply moral cowards who are hiding behind "their children," if those children even in fact exist.

The Post is a "family newspaper," but that doesn't mean that everything in it has to be appropriate for a five-year old. It is the parents' job to make sure that the kids get the "Kids Post" or whatever other sections are appropriate for their age. Any "child" savvy enough to notice and ask about photos such as the one under discussion here are well past the age where responsible parents should have had "the discussion."

Posted by: alert4jsw | March 13, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I am a hetero grandma, married 27 years. I think marriage is a great institution and believe in extending the benefits to all consenting adults.

I salute DC for approving this important civil right, and I also congratulate the Washington Post for running the story with (mild!!!) photo on the front page.

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Posted by: nikejordans1 | March 15, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I liked the article and I really endorse the photo...the Post should run more so that "those in denial and hidding," as well as the haters, can see that "life goes on for all..."

Posted by: fairness3 | March 15, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I think its wonderful that Christian children growing up today accept people who are gay. They seem to be much wiser than the previous generation of Christians because they accept and love everyone just as God made them. We could learn a lesson or two from them!

And to the parents of these children, I have one thing to say: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." Luke 6:37

Posted by: Eurotraks | March 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with the Post printing the picture other than it made me want to upchuck. But having been a photographer at times I say you print what you see, you print reality, and that was reality.

Posted by: repudar711 | March 16, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

It is becoming more difficult every day to follow any of the reasoning that goes into selecting a journalistic endeavor worthy of the Washington Post. Are there really any standards that you follow as guidlines?
For instance, you give a detailed description of a Congressman (Rep Massa) from New York who is hounded out of office for questionable behavior toward other men - meanwhile, you have an openly gay representative from Massachussetts (Barney Frank) who lives with another man doing questionable things with him, but within the framework of "privacy." Within a couple of days of that report, you publish an article upholding the behavior by one of the top administration staffers(R Emanuel) whose thuggish acts would have been soundly rejected by the WP during the Nixon Watergate years. Your wide-eyed reporters either failed to follow up on the abominable behavior of Presidential candidate John Edwards or (wink, wink) gave him a pass that was uncovered by THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER. You cannot have it both ways. What is the moral compass of the WP? Does it even have a compass or know how to use one? Now we come to the Health Care issue. Will the Post give a pass to the Democratic Administration and the Democratic members of Congress simply because its journalists are biased in their favor or will it do the down and difficult nitty gritty dirty work of finding out how this bill a. saves the citizen money b. delivers better health care c. reduces the costs of insurance and d. protects doctors from unreasonable lawsuits and e. if it doesn't really, really deliver on a,b,c, and d issue a statement of rejection for the bill? Finally, is there such a thing as journalistic integrity anymore?

Posted by: shangps | March 16, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse


'For instance, you give a detailed description of a Congressman (Rep Massa) from New York who is hounded out of office for questionable behavior toward other men - meanwhile, you have an openly gay representative from Massachussetts (Barney Frank) who lives with another man doing questionable things with him, but within the framework of "privacy."'

Not only that, they report on Congressmen who commit adultery or harass their female employees and they report on Congressmen who are happily married! Will the outrages ever end?

BTW, Mr. Alexander, if you thought the Post got a lot of support for running the picture in question, just think of the support the Post could get by cleaning out the editorial department of Fred Hiatt and his stable of sycophantic neo-con Bush retreads.

Posted by: hgillette | March 17, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

hofbrauhausde wrote: "So, you would have no objection if the Post published pictures of child molestation, right?"

That remark says everything about you. The fact that you compare a consensual relationship between two adults to child molestation makes your animus toward gay people obvious.

Posted by: james44 | March 17, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure this week's photo of Clarence Thomas and his wife provoked as much private angst as that of the men kissing. The difference is that society has grown more accepting of interracial marriages (at least in public). But as a southern city, no doubt a few WaPo readers shook their heads in private.

A few decades from now folks will look back and be amused at the tenor of the comments posted here. It would be interesting to know if the Post received any comments on the photo of the Thomases.

Posted by: shavenhaircut | March 18, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The fact that there is even a discussion in 2010 about this, is ridiculous to me

Posted by: claudiahowardfha | March 18, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"But it does reflect what is happening in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal." How sad...

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