Thursday, January 27, 2011

Outrage as picture of Elton John's baby is covered with shield by U.S. supermarket to 'protect children'

A U.S. supermarket sparked outrage today after it covered with a 'family shield' a magazine showing a picture of Elton John, his husband and their newborn baby.

The Arkansas store deemed the image of the gay couple and their child, on the front of Us Weekly, to be offensive. Staff say complaints from shoppers prompted them to cover the magazine with the 'shield' - the same method used to cover pornographic magazines. The move today triggered fury among gay rights campaigners.

The magazine cover shows Elton and his husband David Furnish, 48, proudly showing off their baby Zachary Jackson Levi Furnish John who was born on Christmas Day via a surrogate mother.

The Harps grocery store in Mountain Home, Arkansas even wrapped last week's edition of the magazine in a protective plastic shield to stop youngsters flicking through it.

Only the very top of the magazine was visible, with the cover reading: 'Family shield. To protect young Harps shoppers.' The move has sparked outrage among representatives from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Local resident Jennifer Huddleston took a photo of the shield and posted it on Plixi. This was taken at my local grocery store,' she wrote. 'I was shocked and horrified.

'They are saying they need to keep children from seeing it, because it is a gay family.' Ms Huddleston then tweeted Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin, Ellen DeGeneres, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the ACLU and a number of other gay rights activists. The picture immediately sparked controversy across the blogosphere.

But a company spokesperson defended the shield, saying Harps bosses reacted in response to 'several' customer complaints at that particular store. He insisted the move was 'in no way our opinion on this issue', adding, 'we do not have an opinion on this issue.'

But others were quick to complain about the shield, with many urging a boycott of the chain. Even international news outlets carried the story. Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail wrote: 'Heaven forbid your seven-year-old, while waiting in line with you at the grocery store checkout, be exposed to the gays.'

And British paper the Sun wrote: 'Either Elton's baby is in some way offensive or there's some serious homophobia going on here.' After receiving a plethora of complaints, the store management have taken action and un-censored the magazine.

'In this case our store manager received some complaints and, as has been our custom, placed the shield over the cover of the magazine', said Kim Eskew, president of Harps Food Stores Inc.

'When we began receiving complaints at our corporate office, we reivewed the magazine in question, removed the shield and are selling the magazine in all our locations today without any shield', Ms Eskew added.

The shields are usually placed over adult magazines with racy covers. 'Our true intention is not to offend anyone in our stores and this incident happened at just one of our 65 locations, which when brought to our attention we reversed', Ms Eskew said in a written statement.

Just last week Elton John publicly bemoaned feeling like a 'second-class citizen' in the U.S. because of his sexuality and said he was 'fed-up' about it. During a performance at a Beverly Hills fundraiser to help the legal challenge to California's gay marriage back Elton said: 'As I get older, I get more angry about it'.

Elton and his husband David Furnish have been together for 17 years and were married in a lavish ceremony in 2005. He recently shared how he is coping with life with a new baby.'Fatherhood is fantastic', he said. 'It's been the most wonderful thing that's happened to me after meeting David'.

He said that being a dad is 'surprisingly relaxing'.'This little soul that you're feeding, changing, bathing and telling bedtime stories to is a blank canvas', Elton shared.'And all it needs is love and nurturing. When he gets to talking and running around, I will probably feel a little different.'

Read the full article here.

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