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Von Pinnon: The Forum will publish all legal marriage notices

Starting today, The Forum will accept for publication the announcements of gay marriages, engagements and anniversaries if the marriage takes place in a state or country where it's legally recognized.

Right now, that means anyone engaged to be married or who was legally married in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, the District of Columbia and several foreign countries could have their announcement published in The Forum. The scope of this policy will change as states and countries change their marriage laws.

This policy change standardizes our approach to announcements for engagements, marriages and anniversaries. Simply put, we will recognize legal marriages, wherever they occur. We will not publish announcements for non-legally recognized marriages, such as civil unions and commitment ceremonies.

Before today, The Forum would not publish same-sex marriage announcements, using as a guidepost for the policy the marriage laws of both Minnesota and North Dakota. Neither state recognizes gay marriages legally performed in other states.

While The Forum in recent years has written news stories on gay couples from our area going elsewhere to legally marry, The Forum until last weekend had never received a marriage announcement from a same-sex couple planning to legally marry.

In the uproar over our refusal to publish that announcement, we heard from more than 600 people in our area and beyond who shared their opinions about our policy. It's safe to say that people in our region are equally divided over the issue of gay marriage, a debate that goes well beyond the question of whether this newspaper should publish such announcements.

As one of the longest-standing and most trusted institutions in this region, The Forum's position on such matters is viewed as a bellwether, and we take that trusted role very seriously. It's true that a good newspaper mirrors its community, and this community is conflicted on the subject of gay marriage.

In the end, however, this policy review came down to one thing: We inform the public, plain and simple. Except for what's found on the Opinion page, we don't choose sides. We report on many, many things that we neither endorse nor condemn. That's the nature of news. Some people would like us to deny that gay marriage is legally recognized in several states and countries. To not recognize that fact is to deny or distort the truth, something we're not willing to do.

We bring readers marriage announcements, engagement announcements and anniversary announcements because it informs them of what people around them are doing. We tried to set a reasonable standard for what constitutes news in this arena, and we think a legally recognized marriage fits that bill.

We know that for some people this policy change doesn't go far enough. For others, it goes too far. We think it's a reasonable announcement policy for the vast majority of our community.