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Originally published December 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 5, 2008 at 5:17 PM

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UW newspaper column sparks campus controversy

A column that ran in the University of Washington's student newspaper decrying gay marriage — and illustrated with the image of a man standing next to a sheep — has hundreds of students up in arms. But editors of The Daily are standing by what they say is free speech.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

A column that ran in the University of Washington's student newspaper decrying gay marriage — and illustrated with the image of a man standing next to a sheep — has hundreds of students up in arms. But editors of The Daily are standing behind what they say is free speech.

Organizers of the campus group "Students for a Hate Free Daily" say they expect about 300 people to show up for a campus rally today after more than 1,000 signed up with the group online. The Graduate and Professional Student Senate, meanwhile, passed a resolution this week demanding the paper apologize.

But Sarah Jeglum, The Daily's editor-in-chief, says it's important to have a balance of viewpoints in the paper and isn't planning any sort of apology.

Written by senior John Fay, the Nov. 25 column is one in a series in which both a conservative and liberal commentator weigh in on an issue. Fay argues that homosexuality is an emotional tendency "that needs to be dealt with, not denied."

"Once you've legalized gay marriage, why not polygamy, incest, bestiality or any other form of union?" Fay wrote.

Freshman Kyle Rapinan, who is organizing today's rally, said the column is homophobic and incites "fear and hate." The Daily staff should take sensitivity training, he said, and have better protocols for dealing with delicate topics.

Fay said he's been surprised at the reaction.

"I was obviously presenting a conservative perspective, but I felt like I maintained a level of decorum," he said, adding that he could have done a better job explaining his reference to bestiality.

Jeglum said she and other editors approved the image: "It was meant to be an illustration of one point in the column."

Jeglum said she thinks staff members are doing a better job of producing balanced and ethical journalism than at any time in her four years at The Daily.

Just weeks earlier, The Daily surprised many on campus by endorsing Republican Dino Rossi for governor.

Jeglum said all five members of the editorial board voted to endorse Rossi, but she dismissed the notion there has been some kind of conservative takeover of the paper, which has been viewed in the past as particularly liberal.

The Rossi endorsement prompted scores of unhappy students to write in.

"Are you guys insane?" wrote one, adding that The Daily appeared to have "gone completely bonkers."

Wrote another: "It's a very strange world when the Young Democrats are attacking the UW Daily as a right-wing propaganda machine."

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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