Major news outlets have been almost entirely silent on the advancement of one of the most significant pieces of LGBT legislation in U.S. history - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Nine out of 10 voters believe - incorrectly - that federal law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In reality, it is perfectly legal (and common) to fire, harass, and discriminate against LGBT workers in most states in the U.S.
Part of the reason for the public's continued misconception is that mainstream media outlets have failed to report on the lack of progress on ENDA - a bill that would ban discrimination against LGBT workers. In an April 26article titled "Where is the media on ENDA?," the Columbia Journalism Review noted:
A bill that is crucial to the civil rights of the LGBT community was reintroduced in both houses of Congress on Thursday, and you probably didn't hear a thing about it.
[T]he media barely seems to care. A quick Google search showed that only a handful of mainstream outlets wrote stories about the measure in advance of its introduction.
That trend seems to have continued. On July 10, ENDA passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in a bipartisan 15-7 vote, marking the furthest the bill had advanced in the Senate in 17 years.
According to a Media Matters analysis, however, cable news outlets almost entirely ignored the story, opting instead to fawn obsessively about the upcoming birth of the Prince William and Kate Middleton's baby:
On CNN, the disparity was most striking. The network failed to make even a single mention of ENDA's historic Senate advancement, but spent nearly an hour over the course of two weeks anticipating the birth of the royal baby. The network's hard-hitting coverage including segments trying to predict the baby's height and facial appearance:
The lack of ENDA coverage is especially noteworthy considering that the bill has been blocked in Congress for nearly 20 years despite overwhelming public support. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted:
It's been almost 20 years since its first introduction, and ENDA still hasn't passed, despite overwhelming public support. This is flabbergasting, and the media should write about it. All of the media, not just the excellent gay press.
There are 34 states where people face discrimination--at the very least, there should be 34 local news stories about that discrimination and about what would change if ENDA were to be passed. When Congress isn't listening to the people, the people deserve, at least, to know why.
As a result of the media's apathy when it comes to ENDA, many of the bill's opponents - including prominent Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) - have been able to avoid answering uncomfortable questions about why they disagree with the majority of Americans who believe firing someone for being LGBT should be illegal.
In a statement to Media Matters, Employment Law Daily senior editor Lorene Park stated that increased, responsible media coverage of ENDA's advancement is necessary to help correct the public's misconceptions about the realities of workplace discrimination faced by LGBT Americans:
I personally would like to see the media deliver more complete information on the prevalence of employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. As an employment lawyer, I would also like to see more coverage of ENDA. I think more thorough coverage would spark a more meaningful discussion and clear up some misconceptions on what the law would actually do (level the playing field - not provide special rights to certain individuals). Hopefully, in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and the fact that... the Senate HELP committee approved S. 815, ENDA will receive the coverage that any federal antidiscrimination legislation deserves.
To see the full Media Matters report, click here.