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Dallas Voice Editor John Wright Says He Was Fired for Reporting on Public-Erection Ban at Gay Pride Parade

The controversy surrounding the dress code at this year's Dallas Pride parade was never really about nudity. It was about whether the LGBT community should voluntarily adhere to the norms of a mass culture that remains unrelentingly heteronormative, or whether it's better to flout those standards as a form of protest and means of coalescing around a separate identity.

Nevertheless, it was the naked part that made national headlines. Stories detailing bans on public erections have a tendency to do that.

The co-owners of the Dallas Voice, the local LGBT weekly newspaper, weren't happy with the paper's coverage.

"In this case it wasn't necessarily overt," says John Wright, who, as the paper's editor, oversaw that coverage. "I got the distinct sense that the [Dallas] Tavern Guild was not happy."

The Tavern Guild, a trade group comprising the owners of a couple of dozen gay bars, runs Dallas Pride. Its executive director is the one who announced the decision to enforce the dress code.

It's also one of Voice's biggest advertisers, especially during Pride Week. Each year, it pays for the publication of the glossy magazine the paper puts out on the eve of the celebration.

On Monday, Wright was fired. Dallas Voice co-owners Terry Thompson and Leo Cusimano have not yet responded to an interview request. Wright says the reason he was given was insubordination, which he calls "just so fucking false it's not even funny. It's ludicrous."

(Update: Voice publisher Leo Cusimano tells the Morning News that he's heard nothing from the Tavern Guild, attributing Wright's termination to a "combination of things."

"John has his opinion, and we have ours, and they are not the same," he said. "We stand by the actions we took.")

Wright, who was promoted to editor in January 2012 after five years with the paper, contends that it had more to do with the Tavern Guild's displeasure with his Dallas Pride coverage.

"They want an editor who will write puff pieces about their advertisers instead of reporting the facts," Wright wrote in a Facebook post last night, "and I refused to be that editor."

Wright says he has been struggling with management over the direction of the paper for six months, ever since Voice founder and longtime publisher Robert Moore sold the paper to Thompson and Culsimano. Moore, a prominent figure in the local gay scene for more than three decades, was interested in producing quality journalism above all else, Wright said. The new owners, on the other hand, are more focused on protecting advertisers.

Thompson and Culsimano will no doubt take issue with that. We'll update the post accordingly when we hear from them.

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