Gay Personal Ad Ban Stirs Complaint in San Diego

By Dotinga, Randy | Editor & Publisher, April 25, 1998 | Go to article overview

Gay Personal Ad Ban Stirs Complaint in San Diego


Dotinga, Randy, Editor & Publisher


Women may seek men and vice versa, but Union-Tribune policy forces GWM seeking GWM to settle for "friend"

Call it "don't ask, don't tell," Southern California style.

If you're gay and place an ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune's voice personals, you might be surprised when it comes out in print.

The newspaper rewords ads from homosexuals -- taking out words like "gay" and "lesbian" -- and places them in the "seeking friends" section. Meanwhile, heterosexual personal ads go in the "men seeking women" and "women seeking men" sections.

Local gay activists say it's all wrong. "The Union-Tribune just seems insistent upon maintaining this separate-but-equal, sit-in-the-back-of-the-bus kind of treatment" said Ted Seastrom. He is a 42-year-old public relations specialist who's in the middle of a war of words with the nation's

20th largest newspaper.

Like many newspapers, the Union-Tribune prints so-called voice personal ads twice a week. The ads, spread over several pages, offer a chance for the lovelorn to communicate with each other through toll calls into a voice mail system.

Many major newspapers offer sections for gays in their voice personals. They include the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Seattle Times, Detroit Free Press and Philadelphia Inquirer

But not the Union-Tribune, which has about 380,000 readers. Ads from gays are accepted, but abbreviations like "GWM" (gay white male) are banned. Any readers looking for gay ads must learn how to read between the lines and understand what "male seeks male friend" really means.

"You'd put in words like `seeking loving, committed relationship' and they'd change it to `seeking a friend,'" Seastrom said. "I don't know exactly at what moment I reached critical mass and got really upset and realized we've got a Human Dignity Ordinance on the books, and it states businesses offering services have to offer them on a full and equal basis."

In January, Seastrom filed a complaint with the city, saying the newspaper's policy on gay ads violates the city's laws banning discrimination against gays. …

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