When Patrick “Al” Engle reached out to Marietta Neighbors, he simply wanted to seize what he saw as a good opportunity to advertise his natural healing and massage salon in the free magazine seen all over town.
“I’ve lived in Marietta all my life,” Engle, 44, said about the southern eastern Ohio city that borders West Virginia. “Though almost everybody knows who I am, I thought this would be a great way to reach even more people.”
When he contacted Roger Steppe, publisher of Marietta Neighbors, Engle received a surprise offer: Steppe asked Engle if he and his family wanted to be one of the “Featured Families” on the cover of the magazine.
Engle happily agreed.
After some texts regarding scheduling were exchanged between the two in July, Steppe reached out to Engle to confirm interest:
STEPPE: Are you and your wife still interested in being a featured family?
ENGLE: Yes we are still interested.
STEPPE: What is her and your children’s names? Would she or you be writing the story?
Engle then shared the names of his sons, 15 and 17.
And the name of his husband.
“There was no reply for a few days,” Engle said.
Steppe eventually replied and informed Engle that Marietta Neighbors would no longer be featuring Engle’s family. He offered no further explanation.
Engle asked Steppe if the decision was based on the composition of his family.
“Our magazines stay away from politics and controversial issues,” Steppe replied, while highlighting that Marietta Neighbors would still welcome Engle’s advertising money.
Engle was incensed and let Steppe know that if his family was not good enough, neither was his advertising money.
The Buckeye Flame reached out multiple times to to Steppe and Brenda Erb, associate editor and content coordinator, but did not receive a reply.
The Buckeye Flame then reached out to Best Version Media (BVM), the Wisconsin-based parent company of Marietta Neighbors and community magazines across the United States and Canada.
BVM provided the following statement:
BVM is committed to building an inclusive environment for all of our readers and the families we feature. When we learned of this incident we were horrified. This is not acceptable and we have reached out to the couple in question to apologize and to invite them to be on the cover of our magazine in their area. We have addressed this situation with the person involved and will take all steps necessary to ensure this situation does not happen again.
Engle confirmed that BVM contacted him and let him know that his family will be appearing on the November cover, making them the first same-sex couple to be a featured family.
“Older gay couples have already thanked me for fighting in this area,” said Engle. 🔥
- Learn more about (and support!) Out MOV, an LGBTQ+ organization working in this southeastern corner of Ohio.