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North Dakota paper reviews ban on same-sex wedding announcements

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By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) – A North Dakota newspaper is reviewing its policy against printing same-sex wedding announcements in response to a social media campaign that has drawn international scrutiny.

It took less than 12 hours for the Fargo Forum to address the controversy Monday after the paper’s “celebrations editor” e-mailed Allison Johnson, saying the paper would not publish her wedding announcement. Dianna Baumann also promised to refund the $25 publication fee.

Johnson, 31, channeled her disappointment into a social media campaign that has drawn support from as far as Europe and Australia and sparked a petition on Change.org. By Monday night, the Fargo Forum editor had posted a statement on the paper’s Facebook page saying it was “reviewing its policy about publishing same-sex announcements.”

“This is the second such request in recent months. We will communicate a decision once it’s made,” Forum Editor Matt Von Pinnon said.

On Tuesday, Johnson and her fiancee, 27-year-old Kelsey Smith, met with the paper’s editor and publisher and said they left feeling hopeful.

Johnson and Smith met in Minneapolis six years ago and became a couple in 2008. The proposed wedding announcement described their plan to marry in New York on August 1, followed by a reception on August 4 in Fargo, where Smith was born and raised.

After receiving the rejection e-mail, Johnson took a screen shot of it and shared it with friend and iReporter Gia Rassier, who posted it on Twitter, CNN iReport and Facebook. The image was shared more than 600 times and “spread like wildfire,” Rassier said.

Johnson followed up with an open letter to the Fargo Forum and the mayor of Fargo and shared it on Facebook.

“It is a sad day when two people so in love, about to commit their lives to one another, cannot even engage in the smallest of privileges to honor this union,” she wrote.

“I ask each of you reading this to explain to me WHY, in a city that we call home, where we are days away from becoming homeowners in Fargo, where we support every person that does good for their community, are we excluded from being able to announce our wedding celebration? What makes two women or two men any different from other taxpaying married citizens of Fargo, N.D.?”

Regardless of the outcome, they said they knew the paper’s policy doesn’t reflect Fargo’s welcoming attitude toward the LGBT community. Besides, they said, the ensuing support has outweighed all the initial negativity.

“This is 10 times better than a little announcement in the local paper,” said Smith. “I’m still proud to call Fargo my home.”

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