Crystal Craven, one half of the lesbian couple who made history — and sparked outrage — when they married last month in Laurel, Miss., has died, reports Jim Romanesko. Craven lost her battle against brain cancer on Monday, March 11. She was 34.
The Laurel Leader-Call, the local newspaper in Jones County, Miss., published a front-page picture of Craven's wedding to her partner, Jessica Powell, on February 7, with the headline "Historic Wedding." The coverage, which noted that Craven and Powell's ceremony may be the first same-sex marriage to take place in Jones County, Miss., despite a statewide constitutional ban on marriage equality, sparked angry calls, emails, and subscription cancellations from townspeople.
In response, the paper's owner penned a scathing op-ed in defense of his reporters and the paper's journalistic responsibility to report historic news. Supportive calls, emails, and subscription requests from around the world poured in from around the world, ultimately outnumbering the hate-mail 500 to one, according to the blog Deep South Progressive. DSP also reports that the Leader-Call has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for its courageous coverage from 21-year-old reporter Cassidi Bush.
The front-page story featured a pull-quote from Craven, who was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and wore a cowboy hat to the wedding to hide the scars from her latest surgery, that simply said, "If chemo doesn't work, we don't know what happens after that."
Just a week after the ceremony, Craven was informed of new tumors, and decided against another round of chemotherapy.
"She was tired of hurting, tired of being sick, and tired of fighting," her wife Powell told the Leader-Call.
In an obituary announcing Craven's funeral yesterday, the funeral home lists Powell and Powell's son as Craven's "special friends."
DSP also notes that since Craven's death, the family is struggling to pay funeral costs. Bush, who wrote the original story, told DSP that Craven didn't have insurance, so her family will have a hard time covering her final expenses, and asked for support. Monetary donations to the family can be made through Colonial Chapel Funeral Home in Laurel, Miss., by calling 601-649-3342, or in person or by mail at 4593 Indian Springs Rd., Laurel, MS, 39441.
Bush wrote a touching followup article on the couple earlier this month, where Powell spoke earnestly about the realities of losing her wife just weeks after marrying her.
"After this is over, I'm going to do me and hang out with my son," Powell told Bush. "I've already been with the person I was supposed to be with, and some people never get that chance. I'm grateful for the time I have spent with her." Recalling her wedding, Powell said, "My vow to her was forever, not until death do us part."