The opinion editor at a Pennsylvania newspaper says that he "regrets" the initial language he used to announce on Friday that his outlet would ban op-eds that oppose same-sex marriage; he later changed that language to say that his staff would instead "very strictly" limit such content.
"I was way too fast on the draw on that, and sadly for a guy who writes for a living I frankly regret that that happened," John L. Micek, editorial and opinion editor for PennLive and the Patriot-News, told TheBlaze. "It was never an intent on my part to restrict anyone's speech."
Micek said that his original language, which read, "PennLive/The Patriot-News will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage," was "broad and imprecise" and that he could understand peoples' frustrations.
From the edit: "PL/PN will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage."— ByJohnLMicek (@ByJohnLMicek) June 26, 2015
More: "These unions are the law of the land. We would not entertain such criticisms any more than we would of interracial marriage."— ByJohnLMicek (@ByJohnLMicek) June 26, 2015
This is not hard: We would not print racist, sexist or anti-Semitc letters. To that, we add homophobic ones. Pretty simple.— ByJohnLMicek (@ByJohnLMicek)June 26, 2015
Clarification: We will not foreclose discussion of the high court's decision, but arguments that gay marriage is wrong/unnatural are out.— ByJohnLMicek (@ByJohnLMicek) June 26, 2015
"I have now apologized in number of forums, so I think the issue has now been addressed," he said, citing an interview with Fox News on Sunday during which host Tucker Carlson chided him after he said that his intent was to create "a space for civil discussion."
But an "explanation and an apology" that was published by Micek over the weekend failed to plainly address the original ban, focusing on the events that led up to the outlet's statement that it would "strictly limit" all editorials critical of same-sex marriage, seemingly making it seem as though it was the limitation — and not the ban — that the public strongly reacted to.
Micek opened the explanatory piece by describing an emotional situation in the newsroom that culminated in his initial statement.
"About 10 or 15 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made gay marriage legal across the country, including the 13 states that up until now had banned it, a colleague of mine walked into the PennLive newsroom," Micek wrote. "A smile lit up her face and there were tears in her eyes. Up until about 10 a.m. on Friday, my gay colleague sat on pins and needles, waiting to see if nine lawyers were about to throw the life and her and her partner into absolute upheaval."
It was after he hugged his co-worker and then sat down and considered the Supreme Court's ruling — subsequently noticing some of the negative comments streaming in about the legalization of same-sex unions — that Micek said that he wanted to "send the strongest possible message that the opinion pages of PennLive and The Patriot-News would be space for civil discussion."
As TheBlaze previously reported, the editorial board initially published a statement that "PennLive/The Patriot-News will no longer accept, nor will it print" content opposed to same-sex marriage. Later, the outlet backtracked and changed its language. Here's how the text now stands, changing its bent from a ban to "very strictly" limiting:
As a result of Friday's ruling, PennLive/The Patriot-News will very strictly limit op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage.
These unions are now the law of the land. And we will not publish such letters and op-Eds any more than we would publish those that are racist, sexist or anti-Semitic.
We will, however, for a limited time, accept letters and op-Eds on the high court's decision and its legal merits.
The march of progress is often slow, but it is always steady.
On Friday, the United States took another step toward the ideal of equality envisioned by its founders. And we are all more free as a result.
Micek proceeded to note in his apology that he received dozens of phone calls and emails from people opposed to the "strongly worded" editorial policy, writing that the "message included in [the] editorial was lost," yet an apology for the ban, itself, was not plainly given.
"No one at PennLive and The Patriot-News is an opponent of the First Amendment. It's a right that's foundational to us as a people. And it's a right for which many brave and noble men and women have given their lives," he wrote. "And I would never trample on that legacy or dishonor their sacrifice by limiting our readers' right to express themselves in a civil way."
Watch the Fox News clash between Carlson and Micek below:
Micek went on to say, as he did in the Fox News interview, that the paper's statement was aimed at encouraging civil discourse, though that explanation does not necessarily account for the original ban on op-eds questioning gay marriage.
"That's the point that I was trying to make with our statement: We will not publish such slurs any more than we would publish racist, sexist or anti-Semitic speech," he continued. "There are ways to intelligently discuss an issue."
Micek concluded, "For those of you who were offended by what was intended as a very genuine attempt at fostering a civil discussion, I apologize."