The Lancaster Sunday News, run by Lancaster Newspapers Inc., notified Brent Weaver and fiancé Jeffrey Clouser, residents of Mount Joy, last week that their approximately 90-word engagement announcement was incompatible with the paper’s standards. But, after widespread backlash, the newspaper reversed the decision Monday night.
The pair, who have been together for seven years, got engaged in May during a church service, seven years to the day they first met.
“He was singing a solo and I thought I heard him dedicate it to me and I was trying to pay attention, but I was helping his son fold paper boats to keep him occupied,” Weaver joked.
After the song, a projector lit up with the message, “Brent, will you marry me? Jeff.”
Clouser, the son of George and Nancy Clouser, graduated from Boyertown Area Senior High School in 1987 and Millersville University in 1991 and works as a customer-service specialist at a bank in Palmyra. Weaver, the son of Jean and the late Harry Weaver, graduated from Conestoga Valley High School in 1989 and University of Delaware in 1994 and is employed as a middle-school world-language teacher.
Both men said communication has helped to keep their relationship strong.
“Every couple has issues but I think, being a same-sex couple, there can be added stress,” Weaver said. “But rather than letting that tear us apart, we’ve been really good about communicating our fears, frustrations and feelings for one another.”
Clouser added that they’ve learned to “recognize our differences and be able to work well with one another through those differences. We don’t always agree on things, but we’ve figured out ways to talk through that and respect one another.”
Once Weaver accepted the proposal, Clouser spent several hours putting together the announcement.
Weaver said he and his partner didn’t expect to run into any problems with placing the notice in the local paper, for which they were prepared to pay the standard $25 fee.
“We submitted it because that’s what normal people do when you get engaged, and we’re just normal people,” he said. “We try to just live our lives as we know life should be. We try not to worry about conventions but act as we know things should be.”
Shortly after submitting the announcement, however, the couple received an email from the company saying that the notice did not meet its standards, without a specific reference to a policy on same-sex announcements.
“The email told us that the announcement would violate community standards, without ever explaining what that really meant,” Weaver said. “Instead of saying that they don’t print a gay announcement, they used this ‘standards of acceptance’ term. They should have treated us like adults and said that they didn’t think this would go over well with their readers, but instead they told us we didn’t meet their standards. We couldn’t let people treat us like that.”
The couple contacted local news station WGAL, which ran a story on the issue Sunday, sparking a sea of media coverage.
The great majority of online comments on the stories were positive, and most were submitted by non-LGBT people, Weaver noted.
The couple began receiving emails from people whom they’d never met, and the story was shared by people from Minnesota to the United Kingdom.
Several people that the couple knows cancelled their subscriptions to the paper, and a group of strangers staged a protest outside the newspaper’s headquarters Monday.
“There was a lot of support from people we didn’t know,” Weaver said. “I think it’s because this isn’t just a gay issue, it’s an issue of being treated fairly. Everyone wants to believe that they are the same as everyone else and as good as everyone else, and when someone isn’t treated as such, it strikes a nerve with a lot of people.”
On Monday night, the company’s president and CEO, Harold Miller, called the couple and said he had decided to reverse course and would accept the announcement, as well as subsequent wedding and anniversary notices.
“He said that, due to the outcry of support and the dialogue he’d had with everyone who called and wrote in, in talking with the editors, he thought this was the right thing to do,” Clouser said. “When we hung up, we wondered if he meant if it was the right thing to do because of business or actually the right thing to do.”
Clouser said Miller didn’t initially apologize but called back later to offer an apology.
“He said that it was wrong on his part, that this should have been the decision when we submitted the announcement. So I’d like to think that he truly believed that this was the right thing to do,” Clouser said.
The couple is planning to obtain a legal marriage certificate in Connecticut later this month, and is in the process of planning a ceremony closer to home.
The next issue they could encounter is the length of the invite list, Weaver joked.
“So many more people know we’re engaged now than if this had just been printed in the first place. Now everyone wants to come to the wedding.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.