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N.C. Paper Announces Civil Union

July 27, 2002

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Among the newlyweds and longtime husbands and wives smiling from The Fayetteville Observer’s wedding listings, one couple stood out.

Two bearded, bespectacled men _ one in yarmulke and prayer shawl, the other in a tuxedo _ stood side-by-side in a photograph under the banner ``Civil Union.″

Publisher Charles Broadwell said Friday that reader response has been ``a little bit two-headed″ since the announcement ran Sunday. While most local reaction has been negative, he said, much of the national response applauds the paper’s decision.

Broadwell said the Observer tries ``to be sensitive to community standards. We also try to promote tolerance,″ and refusing to run the item would have been ``hypocritical or even discriminatory.″

The newspaper, with a weekday circulation of 66,700 and Sunday readership of 75,000, serves the state’s sixth-largest city and other communities neighboring Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base.

The couple, Richard Jernigan and John Nitzsche, live in Hope Mills, a small town south of Fayetteville. Jernigan, 54, was raised in the Fayetteville area, where his mother still lives; Nitzsche, 44, is a native of Bordentown, N.J.

Jernigan said they have gotten little reaction since the ceremony June 28 in Vermont, where same-sex unions are legal.

``I would be remiss and foolish to say I didn’t think of what may or may not happen, realizing of course that we live in the deep South and we do live in a very conservative area,″ Jernigan said Friday.

``My life is based on a positive thrust forward, not a negative. Those people who want to be negative can do that for themselves,″ he said. ``I refuse to let them rain on my parade.″

Broadwell said seven readers canceled their subscriptions in the wake of the announcement.

He said the newspaper would run similar announcements on two conditions: that the union is officially recognized by a government, and that at least one partner is from the area.

Teri Saylor, executive director of the North Carolina Press Association, said it’s the first such item she has seen in a North Carolina newspaper.

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On the Net:

The Fayetteville Observer: http://www.fayettevillenc.com/

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