“A longtime Allentown newspaper columnist has not been back to work after a dispute with superiors over his participation Saturday in a gay pride parade.
Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, partners for 25 years, were grand marshals of the Allentown event run by Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Whelan said Ardith Hilliard, editor of The Morning Call, where he worked since 1981, misinterpreted the honor as a public show of support for gay marriage.
The Pride group’s Web site states: “The selection of Frank and Bob by Pride supports the need for marriage equality.”
“They thought we’d be ideal grand marshals because we’ve been a gay couple for 25 years,” Whelan said. The couple’s views on gay marriage — they have not entered into any civil union — never came up, he said.”
The proverbial “Pink Elephant in the Bedroom.”
“I have no interest in being an advocate for gay marriage one way or another,” he said.
That’s not possible, dear. You and your lover have been a couple for a quarter of a century. You were Grand Marshalls in a Gay Pride Parade. Of course you care about this issue — even if same-sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania tomorrow and you decided not to get married yourselves you know full well what these means for other couples who would.
And so does the paper you work for.
Hilliard first told Whelan on Thursday she was concerned his serving as grand marshal would violate the paper’s journalistic ethics policy, according to Whelan. He went back and forth about the idea before telling Hilliard on Friday he would take part in the parade.
“I said, ‘Ardith, I guess the rest of us just aren’t as pure as you,’” Whelan recalled Wednesday. “And the next day I was in the parade.”
Well that crack’s what probably tore it.
“Hilliard and managing editor David Erdman on Wednesday referred questions to Vicki C. Mayk, The Morning Call’s director of community relations and communications. Mayk stressed the dispute did not get Whelan fired from his role writing the “Ask Frank” history column and a society-watch column.
“We had never planned to fire him about this issue and have no plans to do so,” Mayk said.”
In short, he’s fired.
She added later, “He’s a valued member of our editorial staff, and we look forward to his return. Beyond that, this is a personnel matter, and it’s our policy that we don’t comment on personnel matters.”
– for attribution.
Mayk also forwarded a statement from Hilliard.
“A newspaper’s responsibility is trust as much as it is news and information,” it read. “To ensure the credibility and independence of The Morning Call, it is paramount that our journalists guard against conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflict.
“Accordingly, The Morning Call, like most newspapers, has a code of ethics for its journalists to protect our credibility and impartiality.”
Obviously at The Morning Call Jewish reporters can’t write about Jews, Baptists about Baptists, African-Americans about African Americans, or women about women — and vice versa. Gotta protect that credibility and impartiality.
“Whelan, 56, said he has been unable to bring himself to face co-workers because of the dispute. He said he received “some communication” Wednesday from the newspaper that he declined to discuss.”
“God Hates Fags” perchance?
“He said he has a meeting scheduled Friday with an attorney.
Whelan said he told Hilliard he felt the dispute violated his civil rights.
“I kept saying, ‘I’m a minority. Don’t you understand that this is important to me as a member of a minority group?’” he said. “
What they understand is that they have the power and authority to ignore that fact.
Parade organizers approached Whelan and Wittman, who live in Allentown, about a month ago. The two started dating soon after Whelan started at The Morning Call and moved in together in 1982. Wittman was a reporter at the newspaper for 30 years before leaving in 2004.
Tim Chadwick, vice president of Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said organizers never considered that Whelan’s involvement would compromise his journalism, his job or his employer.
“There was never any discussion or even thought of that,” Chadwick said. “I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. I think it’s a conjured up excuse for The Morning Call to cover up their homophobia.”
SING OUT LOUISE!
Chadwick said the parade and festival is a celebration of diversity; he said about 5,000 people participated.
“This is not anything that involves any kind of an agenda,” said Chadwick, who lives in Bethlehem. “We’re a nonprofit entity. We’re not by law allowed to be political in any way. The fact that The Morning Call takes the stance that having him as grand marshal is political completely has no weight.
“This is a civil rights matter and human rights matter. It has nothing to do with some kind of agenda. People are just trying to be who they are and live without oppression.”
Ah, but because it’s a civil and human rights matter it’s regarded by the status quo as having an “agenda.” Being “who they are and living “without oppression” is a huge deal.
Chadwick said he introduced Whelan and Wittman at the festival and highlighted their decades-long relationship.
“I spoke to the glory of their being humanly committed to each other,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re homosexual or heterosexual.”
Oh yes it does! That’s why there’s thus dust-up at The Morning Call.
“Chadwick said the organization has not formally responded to the fallout from Whelan’s appearance but plans to release a statement in the next few days.
Reporter Kurt Bresswein can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor Jim Deegan contributed to this report.”
Drop ‘em a line.