Silent Spring for Networks on Recent Same-Sex Marriage Decisions
Network news covered and even amplified the outrage of gay activists after
Prior to April 2009, only
Broadcast evening news reports largely ignored these recent advances in the battle to redefine marriage. CBS failed to discuss any of the states' actions on the issue of marriage. NBC briefly reported the four decisions in three anchor reads (combining the news of
ABC featured sound bites from four proponents of same-sex marriage in its April 3 report, including Richard Socarides, former Special Advisor to President Clinton, who said, “There is nothing more mainstream than
Only one defender of traditional marriage appeared in the broadcast nightly news programs. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told ABC, “It's yet another example of a judicial shotgun wedding where you have an activist court forcing same-sex marriage upon an unwilling population in a state.” According to 2000 U.S. Census data,
Correspondent Chris Bury, while noting that it was the
“Homosexual activists, including their media supporters, believe the American people do not have the right to preserve marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Therefore, they will continue to push for same-sex “marriage” through every avenue that does not involve “we the people,” Mario Diaz, policy director for legal issues at Concerned Women for
Diaz continued, “The media know that every time the decision is left to the voters they elect to preserve marriage as the union between one man and one woman and they also know that the American people despise judicial tyranny. So the news story is never about how same-sex 'marriage' is imposed on us.”
After Californians upheld the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman by the passage of Proposition 8, the nightly network news coverage revolved around the battle cry of “equality” and the bruised feelings of Prop. 8 opponents. NBC aired footage of homosexual protestors shouting, “What do we want? Equality!” on the Nov. 6 and Nov. 9 “Nightly News” broadcasts. The Nov. 9 “Nightly News” also featured an unidentified woman stating, “I had never felt such a sense of being less of a person.” Lorri Jean from the Los Angeles Gay and
No network stories discussed the moral and societal implications of changing the definition of marriage, nor did the networks allow any supporters to provide a detailed defense of Proposition 8, a trend that continued into the spring of 2009.
Why the Silence Now?
Opponents of same-sex marriage could not expect to receive the same treatment as the Prop 8 protesters, but the networks scaled-down reports of the recent decisions are a major change.
Nightly newscasts on May 17, 2004, the first day same-sex marriages could take place, led with the
On “Nightly News,” NBC's Rehema Ellis mentioned that the
Former CBS “Evening News” anchor Dan Rather noted, “The wedding licenses were issued to comply with a ruling by the state's highest court.” Then-CBS correspondent Mika Brzezinski showcased a lesbian who said the day meant “freedom” to her.
News reports also hit the “civil rights” angle hard on Nov. 18, 2003, the day the
CBS' Brzezinski followed Williams' formula in her report by including other views but Bonauto – again unchallenged –asserted, “Equal means equal and there is no gay exception in the Constitution for gay and lesbian citizens of this commonwealth. That's the bottom line.”
ABC's report by Ron Claiborne featured plaintiff Mike Horgan saying “Today, in the
ABC, CBS and NBC all covered the May 15, 2008 California State Supreme Court marriage decision. As CMI previously reported, “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.” Stuart Gaffney told CBS that night, “Marriage is the right to marry the person that you love, and I'm here with the person that I love.”
Yet just five months later in Oct. 2008, networks devoted little time to the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Only NBC's Brian Williams reported the Oct. 10, 2008, decision in an anchor read. ABC's Dan Harris briefly mentioned the ruling in a Nov. 12, 2008 report about Prop. 8 protests: “As for gay activists, they say their loss in
Silent spring indeed.
Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.