The TV news networks and other major media followed the typical gay script in reporting the California Supreme Court's 4-3 ruling Thursday striking down the voter-approved marriage law and presumably creating “gay marriage” in the
ABC, NBC and CBS all featured clips of happy homosexual activists, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, and very brief comments from a pro-family spokesman. Only CBS identified Newsome as a Democrat, while CBS and NBC identified Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Republican and ABC described him as a McCain supporter.
CBS gave traditional marriage defender Andy Pugno, Chief Counsel for the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, only 13 words on camera, allowing him to say the court had “overstepped its bounds.”
The networks ignored the
ABC's George Stephanopoulos was the only evening network analyst to discuss the possible impact on the presidential race, which he said might be minimal.
The Washington Post featured two happy lesbians on the front page, and managed to include a quote from the ruling comparing the approval of “gay marriage” to the end to “interracial marriage” in 1948. The Wall Street Journal lead story featured a color photo of two happy lesbians, but also a graph showing a survey indicating that “Most Americans still opposed legalizing same-sex marriage.” The New York Times featured a crowd of hugging same-sex couples, with a male couple in the foreground.
None of the networks mentioned that
Misleading “Ban” Spin
In announcing the decision, ABC's Charles Gibson said:
Today's 4-3 ruling by the California Supreme Court is clear and it is historic. Gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in
The court actually said that the law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman was “unconstitutional.” By spinning same-sex marriage as a constitutional “right,” Gibson gave the impression that the “ban on same-sex marriage” was an injustice that needed overcoming, and not the legal reflection of the norm for all major religions and the deeply rooted tradition in the
Similarly biased coverage of the marriage ruling could be found on the on-line news sites immediately following the decision, including MSNBC, which reported only pro-homosexual spokesmen and excerpts of the court's 4-3 majority decision. The MSNBC article ended with this terse bummer: “An initiative is under way in
The media script for gay rulings or votes is simple: 1) Report the outcome, often in a triumphant or scolding tone 2); interview happy or sad gay proponents, depending on whether they've won; 3) expand on the outcome; 4) include a speed bump comment with an “opponent”—but only on procedure, nothing that might get people excited; 5) return to triumphal gay spokesperson; 6) speculate on next move. The Washington Post, for example, concluded its front-page story with a quote by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, who dismissed any possible political importance of the decision by reducing it to one of several “social wedge issues.” A wedge issue is not a valid issue but a debate contrived for political purposes.
Here are the transcripts of the three major networks' coverage of the ruling on May 15.
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. The hot-button issue of same-sex marriage is front and center again in this country and in the middle of a presidential election campaign.
BLACKSTONE: With shouts and tears, those who fought to win the right to marry celebrated on the steps of
JEANNE RIZZO, WINNING PLAINTIFF: Oh, my god! Oh, my god!
RIZZO: I can't wait to marry my partner. It's just a beautiful day.
BLACKSTONE: Four years ago, Jeanne Rizzo and her partner Pauli Cooper joined the flood of gay couples getting married at
RIZZO: I don't know the details of the ruling, but I think we're getting married pretty soon.
STUART GAFFNEY (SHOWN WITH PARTNER): Marriage is the right to marry the person that you love, and I'm here with the person that I love.
BLACKSTONE: The news spread quickly to
TIM OVIATT, SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENT: I've got goose bumps. I'm crying. This is a moment I waited for all my life.
BLACKSTONE: At City Hall, where the mayor opened the doors to gay marriages four years ago, today's victory was sweet.
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D)
BLACKSTONE: But opponents of gay marriage are already working to overturn the decision with a ballot initiative in November. What's wrong with legalizing gay marriage in
ANDREW PUGNO, PROTECTMARRIAGE.COM: Well, the main problem here is that the court has overstepped its bounds.
BLACKSTONE: Still, a rush of gay weddings is expected as soon as the ruling takes effect in 30 days. And these marriages will be unquestionably legal.
ANDREW COHEN, CBS NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: But as a practical matter, once you give same-sex couples the right to marry and they marry, undoing those marriages is a headache.
BLACKSTONE: Certainly, the fighting over this hasn't ended yet. But
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Also freedom to marry, a big story on the West Coast tonight, big victory for gay couples, how big an impact will this have nationwide?
Third story: (Bush's speech took top priority)
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We mentioned this at the top of the broadcast, in
PETE WILLIAMS: Today's ruling is a huge victory for advocates of gay rights.
UNIDENTIFIED GAY COUPLE: We're going to be newlyweds after 21 years together. We just couldn't be happier.
P. WILLIAMS: It overturned
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM,
P. WILLIAMS: In defending its law, the state said
RACHEL LEDERMAN, GAY PARENT: Marriage is something that everyone understands. So it has a unique social status when you tell people that you're married.
P. WILLIAMS: And today by a vote of 4-3 the state Supreme Court agreed. “Providing a separate designation for same-sex couples,” the court said, “perpetuates the premise that gay individuals are second-class citizens who can treated less favorably.” Opponents of same-sex marriage said the court overstepped its bounds.
GLEN LAVY, GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENT: Marriage has always been about men and women coming together, having children and raising them in the context of a legally recognized marriage.
P. WILLIAMS: Opposition groups say they have gathered more than 1 million signatures to get a measure on the November ballot that would wipe out today's decision by changing the state constitution to say that marriage can only exist between men and women. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he would oppose such a move.
ABC World News with Charles Gibson
CHARLES GIBSON: Welcome to World News. Tonight, the California Supreme Court says gay marriage is constitutional in that state. What's the implication for the rest of the nation?
GIBSON: Good evening, today's 4-3 ruling by the California Supreme Court is clear and it is historic. Gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in
ROONEY: A cheer went up outside the courthouse as the decision was announced. It was an emotional moment for same-sex couples who have waited years to be legally married.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's an amazing feeling to know that our government is recognizing our relationship and our union.
ROONEY: It was the marriages of same-sex couples in
ANDREW PUGNO, ATTORNEY FOR PROP 22 DEFENSE FUND: The court has exceeded its bounds of what courts do, and they have tried to make social policy rather than interpret the law.
ROONEY: In recent years, 26 states have amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. So, even while
KATE KENDALL, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS: The state supreme court of the largest state in the country, with more lesbian and gay people than any other state, the biggest population of voters and Americans of any state, what it signals is that this is a new day.
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM,
ROONEY: Now the marriages could begin after about 30 days, but this does not end the conflict. A constitutional amendment that could end up on the November ballot, Charlie, and if it passes, it would overrule the courts and the legislature and marriage only between man and a woman would be the law of the state.
GIBSON: Brian Rooney, reporting tonight from
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEW CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's likely to have some impact, Charlie, but not the kind of game-changing issue you might expect, in part because so many states have already banned gay marriages. Now this initiative will likely be on the ballot in