John Christopher Millican died on June 11. Terrance James, his partner of 10 years, submitted info for an obituary to his local paper in Arkansas, The Batesville Daily Guard.
The Guard published the obit, listing Millican’s dead parents and surviving siblings, but did not list James. When James complained to the paper, he was told the paper had a policy of not printing the names of unmarried partners.
Actually, that was the policy for unpaid obits. For an $85 fee, a paid obit would include any information James wanted. In response, James contacted the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), an LGBT rights group in Arkansas.
CAR got the attention of LGBT advocates such as GLAAD and LGBT media such as Queerty. According to The Advocate, the steady pressure on the Guard has resulted in the paper issuing an apology and agreeing to reprint the obit including James.
GLAAD will pay the Guard the $85 fee and the Guard will donate the $85 to a charity James chooses. In addition, the Guard will change its policy for unpaid obits to include unmarried partners.
Is this a blueprint for a new way forward for advocates and media to work together for a common good? It would seem so, but perhaps this is just an anomaly. Or perhaps I’ve left my rose-colored glasses on too long. I tend to do that.
UPDATE: The Advocate is reporting that the Guard is backing away from its promises, instead publishing an editorial accusing James of pursuing an “agenda.” We’ll keep our eyes open for more details.