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Reporter Fired for Private Anti-Gay Marriage Email

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Dec 9, 2009
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A reporter who blasted a gay equality group in a private email the morning after marriage parity was defeated in Maine has been fired from his job at a local newspaper.

Larry Grard, an 18-year employee at Waterville, Maine’s The Morning Sentinel, had not covered the marriage equality vote last month that saw gay and lesbian families in that state lose the right to marriage that the state legislature had approved earlier this year. However, when Grard came in to work the morning after Election Day and saw an email message from the Human Rights Campaign, a GLBT equality lobby group, saying that anti-gay animus accounted for the result, he took umbrage and fired off a note in response.

"They said the Yes-on-1 people were haters," Grard was quoted as saying in a Dec. 7 DownEast.com article. "I’m a Christian. I take offense at that. I e-mailed them back and said basically, ’We’re not the ones doing the hating. You’re the ones doing the hating.’ I sent the same message in his face he sent in mine."

The person to whom Grard was referring was the HRC’s deputy communications director, Trevor Thomas, who contacted the paper to complain about the email Grard had sent.

Sentinel editor Bill Thompson fired Grard the next week. According to Grard, Thompson told Grard that Thomas had demanded the paper terminate Grard’s employment. "There’s no wiggle room," Grard claimed Thompson told him.

Thomas disputes that. In a response to the story, Thomas said, "The day following the loss in Maine, HRC released a statement and shortly thereafter reporter Larry Grard responded with the following: ’Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!’

"At no time did I ask Larry to be fired," Thomas continued, "but instead had one email interaction with his editor where I said: ’I received the below email this morning after our national media release was sent to your team. ... It’s frankly, just not acceptable coming from a news organization the morning after our defeat.’

"The editor did not contact me further," Thomas added. "The management team of the newspaper did let me know they had policies in place and were looking into the matter. It is my understanding they conducted their own review. I only learned Larry was fired from a reporter asking for comment."

Not only did Grard lose his job, the DownEast.com article said, but his wife, who also wrote for The Sentinel, was also informed that her services would no longer be needed by the publication.

The article said that Thompson did not respond to a message, nor did the Sentinel’s executive editor, Scott Wasser.

Grard fell back on a common refrain in such instances, claiming that his firing was motivated by "anti-Christian bias." Said Grard, "A lawyer said to me, ’What if you’d agreed with [the Human Rights Campaign]? Would the company fire you for that? Of course they wouldn’t have.’"

The Human Rights Campaign is not a religious organization, but strictly political, lobbying lawmakers for GLBT-inclusive legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the recently passed Matthew Shepard James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was the first--and to date is the only--federal law to protect GLBT Americans.

Grard’s firing has been contested and is headed for arbitration. "The [Portland Newspaper] Guild is defending the contract, which requires that there be progressive discipline in situations like this," said Tom Bell, the Guild’s president.

The story was posted for comment at conservative chat site FreeRepublic.com, where gay-themed news items are frequently discussed. The site’s users, who refer to themselves as "Freepers," expressed the hope that Grard would sue the newspaper. "This guy should lawyer up. I don’t know if Maine is a employment-at-will state, but firing somebody for what they say in a private email from a personally-owned computer might be actionable," one Freeper wrote, while another opined, "Hopefully he will soon own the paper and can fire every one of the liberal bastar*s. That will be sweet revenge."

Wrote a third, "I see a settlement large enough to shut that paper down," while still another suggested, "Rico vs HRC using a claim of tortious inference with a labor contract? Rico is a claim magnifier."

Others addressed the ideological aspects of the story. "After groups like the Taleban [sic] there isn’t a less tolerant bunch than ’liberals,’" one Freeper wrote. Another contributed the remark, "Sounds like he has a legitimate claim on being discriminated against based on his religion."

Others took the incident as proof that gays were out to get heterosexuals, with one individual writing, "...the man used his personal email to respond. He didn’t do it on a work computer. He has a God given right to his opinion. I just don’t understand why the gay movement is so hateful and vindictive!"

Another posted an image of Hitler carrying a swastika-emblazoned flag, with the face of Barack Obama superimposed over Hitler’s. There was no text included with the image to indicate how the image had any connection with the story at hand.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-12-09 15:02:59

    Within the last 50 days this is the 3rd case that I know of where just opening your mouth will threaten your livelihood and family. Welcome to the new world of tolerance. The same sex marriage law in Maine did not have protection for someone like Larry Grard. HRC is behind this law and said that Yes on 1 were liars when they try to explain it in their TV Ad. Trevor Thomas of HRC Maine cannot just wash his hands like he has no responsibility into this. His future actions as well as the actions of Shenna Bullows of the MCLU will show us there true faces


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-09 15:11:18

    I don’t feel sorry for the bible thumping bastard. He deserves all of the negative attention that he has coming to him! If the bigots want to vote away our right to get married, they will suffer the consequences! I would like to destroy their disgusting religion! I hate religious bigots!


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-09 18:23:52

    I’m glad the son-of-a-bitch lost his job. Christians everywhere spew hatred of "the other", whether a person is gay, lesbian, or a different religion. Then, when the they’re called to the carpet, they shift the blame to everyone else. No wonder there is a growing anti-Christian movement out there. Because todays Christians simply are NOT Christ-like, and they sully his name. All of them should be ashamed. They’re no better then the Taliban.


  • Bill Blazak, 2009-12-09 18:27:05

    Hopefully the fired reporter will launch a lawsuit against the paper and HRC. There are lots of us gays who are not going to pup up with homosexual fascism. If you want to get riled up like Anonymous 15:11, go fight the good fight in Uganda. You are so over the top with your drama queen rage, you’ve become nothing but comic book figures. Like little girls at Christmas who got everything BUT the EZ bake oven.


  • Raymond Weaver, 2009-12-09 20:27:19

    I am speaking as a gay man who survived the 50’s. What happened to this reporter is not fair, not just. He is entitled to his feelings, and he did not seek HRC (whom I also support)out. They came to him. One injustice does not excuse another.


  • Fred Hatebush, 2009-12-09 21:31:37

    I suspect that there’s something else to the story. Being fired for what is a pretty tame infraction seems a little over the top. There’s got to be more to this story.


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-10 07:03:31

    I agree with sfhuskybear. Something more is going on here. Many times I’ve seen one situation used as a pretext for getting rid of someone who has a history of bad behavior. What I think is really odd is that the newspaper got rid of Mrs. Grard as well.


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-10 07:06:05

    Sounds like hate speech to me, "I would like to destroy their disgusting religion! I hate religious bigots" and "I’m glad the son-of-a-bitch lost his job" - Why is it when you are pro-gay, your hate speech is okay?


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-10 07:21:08

    Nothingpetty, the HRC did not come to him. They mailed out their response to the legislation and gave their opinion to the press. This man decided that he did not agree with the formal press release and decided to email the HRC that they are the haters. Does this reporter have the right to respond to the HRC statement? Of course he does, but there are consequences to those actions. The HRC was obviously able to determine the paper this reporter was associated with (they emailed his editor) as they only sent out a formal press statement. So he clearly acted in an unprofessional manner and was disciplined for doing so. At no point in time was this man denied his right to free speech.


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-10 15:06:45

    Sad day when you can not speak your mind or the truth. But let the gays say and do whatever they want. God bless them and have mercy on them


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-11 12:18:57

    I pray for the ignorant straight people who condemn their Gay brothers and sister, children and friends because they feel it is a chosen lifestyle. Only Gays know the truth ... from all others it is "judgements"! Their preachings only bring on hurt and hate. One group: fighting for doctrine, the other: fighting for their lives. Stop the hateful anger ... Christ would not condone this! What one sows, so shall they reap! Steve Leong Hawaii


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