Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Maine Reporter Fired for Offending Gay Lobbyists

Some stories leave you scratching your head. Take the case of the Maine reporter fired for sending a private e-mail opposing gay marriage to the Human Rights Commission.

Larry Grard fired off an angry e-mail to the Human Rights Commission after the HRC sent a press release claiming that Maine's gay marriage proposition died because of "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 e-mail was anonymous, but the HRC Googled his name and discovered he was a reporter at the Waterville Morning Sentinel. The tolerance policde then demanded that Grard be fired and the weak-kneed sissies at the Morning Sentinel obliged.
According to Grard and his union, the Portland Newspaper Guild, he has never before had any disciplinary issues. Guild president Tom Bell said in an e-mail that a grievance has been filed on Grard’s behalf, and the Guild is awaiting a date for an arbitration hearing, which will probably take place in three or four months. “The Guild is defending the contract,” Bell said, “which requires that there be progressive discipline in situations like this.”

Grard said he wouldn’t be complaining if he’d been subjected to a lesser penalty, such as a reprimand or a suspension without pay, for his first offence. He said reporters frequently send personal e-mails from their own accounts during working hours without incurring management’s wrath.

Grard said he thinks his religious beliefs were a factor in his firing, calling it “anti-Christian bias.” “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,’” he said.

The Sentinel and the other MaineToday papers editorialized in favor of same-sex marriage.

Rarely do I support unions, but the PNG is doing the right thing by supporting Grard in a clearly arbitrary firing case. Grard should sue for wrongful termination, if it's possible.

Worse yet, the newspaper apparently is punishing Grard's wife Lisa for the incident.
The week after Grard was fired, he said, his wife, Lisa, who wrote a biweekly food column for the Sentinel as a freelancer, received an e-mail informing her that her work would no longer be needed.

Could it be that Lisa Grard was canned because the paper "didn't need" her work anymore? Possibly, but the circumstances are mighty fishy.