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Mississippi paper defends gay marriage story after backlash

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The owner of a Mississippi newspaper is defending a decision to run a story about a lesbian wedding on the paper's front page after intense backlash from readers, according to a Yahoo News report.

Jim Cegielski says the "deluge of hate calls, letters, emails, Facebook posts, soundoffs and random cross stares thrown in my direction" after the Laurel Leader-Call published the piece, entitled "Historic Wedding: Women Wed in Laurel Through Smiles, Tears," required a response. 

The couple in the story, Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven, exchanged vows earlier in the month, Yahoo notes.

"We were well aware that the majority of people in Jones County are not in favor of gay marriage. However, any decent newspaper with a backbone cannot base decisions on whether to cover a story based on whether the story will make people angry," Cegielski wrote in an editorial. 

"Our job is to inform readers what is going on in our town and let them make their own judgments. That is exactly what we did with the wedding story," Cegielski continued. "If there had been protestors at the wedding, we would have covered that the exact same way . . . but there weren't any. We never said it was a good thing or a bad thing, we simply did our job by telling people what took place."

He noted that the paper carries "stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying, 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children."

Noting that about 20 readers told him they think gay marriage is "an abomination against God," Cegielski said 15 people have cancelled their subscriptions to the Leader-Call because of the story.

"You have every right to cancel your subscription. But you have no right to berate and belittle anyone on our staff," he concluded.

The Leader-Call is receiving support for its stance on its Facebook page.

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