A married same-sex couple in Dallas is claiming that their LGBTQ status led them to be discriminated against by a local Texas newspaper. According to Barry Giles and John Gambill, The Olton Enterprise cut Gambill’s name and his relationship as Giles’ husband from the recent obituary of Giles’ mother, Brenda Light. As Fox 4 reports, the newspaper doesn’t dispute the couple’s claims. Rather, the publisher released a statement citing his own “religious and ethical reasons” as the reason that the grieving son’s husband’s name was edited out of his mom’s obituary before it was published.
The Olton Enterprise is a small, local newspaper operated out of Giles’ hometown. According to the grieving son and his husband, Brenda Light had been “like a second mom” to John Gambill, her son’s partner for 31 years and, more recently, his husband. The couple vacationed with Giles’ late mom, even caring for her toward the end of her life when she relocated closer to their home in Dallas.
“We’re human beings like anyone else. We have feelings. We have relationships, whether he agrees with them or not.”
Light’s death was reportedly sudden, the result of an accidental fall last month. After she passed away, the couple wanted to pay homage to not just her son’s grief, but also the grief of her son’s husband. The obituary, as submitted to several newspapers, reportedly included the line, “Those left to cherish her memory include her son, Barry Giles and his husband, John Gambill of Dallas.”
However, when the obituary was finally published in The Olton Enterprise, all mention of John Gambill was omitted. The disgruntled husband of the deceased woman’s son says that he immediately called the newspaper to report the problem, but the publisher was less than conciliatory. Indeed, when Gambill asked why his name and relationship to the woman’s son was left out, publisher Phillip Hamilton allegedly told his upset patron that his name had been deliberately edited out of the obituary.
“I said, ‘Why was my name left out?’ And he said, ‘Because I wanted to.’ And that’s all there was to the conversation. Of course, I had a few choice words to say to him.”
When contacted by media outlets for his side of the story, Hamilton refused to be interviewed. However, he did release an unapologetic statement regarding the situation. According to the publisher, also a Baptist pastor, a man cannot be the husband of another man (per his religious beliefs). He added that referring to Brenda Light’s son’s husband as “husband” in the obituary would be tantamount to knowingly publishing a false news item.
“It is my religious conviction that a male cannot have a husband. It is also my belief that to publish anything contrary to God’s Word on this issue would be to publish something in the newspaper that is not true.”
The obituary, featuring both the deceased’s son and her son’s husband as her surviving family members, was published in several other local newspaper without being edited for content or religious reasons.
The couple says that they are now looking at legal options with regard to the unwanted obituary editing. Unfortunately, the married couple may have a tough time proving that they have a legal case against the newspaper, which has broad protection under the first amendment. In response to a slew of negative social media attention, publisher and pastor Phillip Hamilton also cited his first amendment rights in refusing to mention the husband of the son of Brenda Light.
“…the newspaper respects the first amendment rights of those who express such opinions. The newspaper’s decision to edit the obituary is both ethical and lawful. It would be unethical to publish a news item that is known by the editor to be false. Based on the truth found in the Word of God, I could not in good conscience identify Mr. Gambill as the husband of Mr. Giles.”