The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is an independent regulatory body that ensures that newspapers and magazines published in the United Kingdom adhere to a well-defined set of professional standards. Its Editor's Code of Practice covers everything from its expectations for accurate reporting to its guidelines for respectfully writing about crime victims.
It also addresses and rules on complaints from readers who think that a printed article, letter to the editor, or a journalist's own behavior has violated that code somehow. IPSO publishes all of its rulings on its website; in the past few days, it has decided that The Reading Chronicle shouldn't have used the word 'ancient' to describe trees that are being cleared for a housing development; that the Rotherham Advertiser shouldn't have called a school headmaster 'unprofessional' in a headline; and it ruled in favor of a Sunday Times columnist who anonymously wrote about her ex-husband. (The complainant was the woman's ex.)
IPSO has also just issued its ruling on 'Liberty v. The Sun,' a poetically named complaint that was filed last December. Amanda Liberty, a 35-year-old Leeds woman, describes herself as an 'objectum sexual,' and says that she has a sexual attraction to inanimate objects. Last summer, Liberty told The Mirror that she is in a relationship with a 91-year-old chandelier that she bought on eBay and named Lumiere. She also said that, although a traditional marriage to Lumiere might not be possible, she planned to eventually formalize their union by exchanging rings in some kind of commitment ceremony.
"People often can't understand that this is just a natural orientation for me, that I can find the beauty in objects and can sense their energy," she said. "I want others to see how happy the chandeliers make me, and how much they've enriched my life. I'm doing this in the hope that people will understand our love, and if not understand it, maybe they could at least accept it."
Before she found Lumiere, Liberty said that she was in an 'open relationship' with the 24 other chandeliers that fill her home. She was previously involved with a drum kit that she had as a teenager, and a decade ago, she fell in love with the Statue of Liberty. She has since legally changed her surname to 'Liberty' to reflect her feelings for the New York City landmark.
Several months after Liberty discussed her relationship with Lumiere, Jane Moore, a columnist for The Sun, included the couple in her annual year-end 'Awards' feature. Moore said that Liberty was the winner of her Dagenham Award for being 'Two Stops Past Barking,'
"Amanda Liberty who, thanks to being an 'objectum sexual' married a chandelier-style light fitting," Moore wrote. "Dim & Dimmer?"
Liberty filed an official complaint with IPSO because she believed that The Sun "was pejorative to her sexual orientation," and it also inaccurately described her relationship, as she and Lumiere have not yet married.
In its response to Liberty's complaint, The Sun said that it "did not doubt that [her] attraction to chandeliers was genuine," but Moore's comments weren't discriminatory because being sexually attracted to objects isn't an officially recognized sexual orientation under the Equality Act 2010, nor is it addressed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Sun also said that, because Liberty had willingly discussed her relationships with inanimate objects in previous interviews, their columnist "was entitled to comment on it."
IPSO ruled in favor of The Sun. It acknowledged that Liberty might have been offended and upset by Moore's column, but said that its Editor's Code doesn't address what is or isn't offensive. The organization also explained that, although the Code prohibits "pejorative reference" to a person's sexual orientation, it is limited to providing "protection to individuals in relation to their sexual orientation towards other persons, and not to objects."
On Tuesday, Liberty told LeedsLive that she expected IPSO to side with The Sun, but that didn't make the column any less unnecessary. "They were saying I was barking mad and I thought it was shocking. I understand people have a hard time understanding it and accepting it but because of this it's like they can carry on the bullying and I've just got to accept it," she said.
"You might not accept my orientation but you should still take me seriously as a human being."