Main | Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Maine Reporter Fired For Personal Email Against Marriage Equality

Larry Grard, an 18-year veteran of Maine's Morning Sentinel, has been fired after his employers were notified by the Human Rights Campaign that he had sent them an "in your face" email from his personal account on the morning after the vote to repeal same-sex marriage.
Larry Grard admits he had “a lapse in judgment.” But Grard – who’s been a reporter for thirty-five years, the last eighteen of them at the Morning Sentinel in Waterville – says the e-mail he sent from his personal account to a national gay rights group shouldn’t have been grounds for his dismissal. Grard was fired by Bill Thompson, editor of the Sentinel and its sister paper the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, shortly after the Nov. 3 election in which Maine voters repealed a same-sex marriage law approved by the Legislature. Grard said he arrived at work the morning after the vote to find an e-mailed press release from the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., that blamed the outcome of the balloting on hatred of gays.

Grard, who said he’d gotten no sleep the night before, used his own e-mail to send a response. “They said the Yes-on-1 people were haters. I’m a Christian. I take offense at that,” he said. “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.” Grard thought his response was anonymous, but it turned out to be anything but. One week later, he was summoned to Thompson’s office. He was told that Trevor Thomas, deputy communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, had Googled his name, discovered he was a reporter, and was demanding Grard be fired. According to Grard, Thompson said, “There’s no wiggle room.” He was immediately dismissed.
The Morning Sentinel and its sister publication had editorialized in support of same-sex marriage. Grard's case is being championed on Free Republic and elsewhere as an example of "the vindictiveness of the gay Taliban." It appears from the story that Grard used a work computer to send the personal email. His union has filed a grievance with the paper and is awaiting a date for an arbitration hearing.

UPDATE: The HRC's Trevor Thomas sends us his version of that morning.
Response from Trevor Thomas:

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!"

Understanding the original release was sent only to Maine media contacts, it was quickly discovered the reporter worked for a mainstream news outlet that covered the Maine ballot race. At no time did I ask Larry to be fired, 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. 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.

Trevor R. Thomas
Deputy Director, Communications
The Human Rights Campaign

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