Right-wing media responded in disbelief and outrage to the Supreme Court's decision holding that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
From the June 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the June 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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In the wake of the June 17 mass shooting in a Charleston, S.C. church, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Americans can no longer distinguish "normal from crazy and evil from good," citing society's acceptance of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner.
On the June 18 edition of The Erick Erickson Show, and in an accompanying blog post on RedState.com headlined, "The Conversation We Won't Have," Erickson denounced the "political" conversation in the wake of the attack that killed nine people, and criticized what he called "cries from the left" about racism and gun laws. He lamented that "as a nation, when these things happen, we never have the conversation about real evil. We also never have the conversation about mental health:"
Erickson wrote that society's acceptance of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner was evidence that people are reluctant to discuss things like the nature of evil and mental health issues (emphasis added):
As a nation, when these things happen, we never have the conversation about real evil. We also never have the conversation about mental health. For that matter, we don't have honest conversations about why some kid in Minnesota or Alabama would want to go join ISIS and kill their fellow citizens or why some kid would want to join neo-nazis or a gang.
Instead, we descend into partisan conversations where everything is political and neither side can concede or acknowledge the other's points. Everyone and everything gets blamed while ignoring the actual person who killed.
I realize now why that is. I realize why we will never have the conversation we should have.
A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and "a new normal" cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness -- overwhelming narcissism and delusion -- and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.
While Erickson is the first Fox personality to link Caitlyn Jenner to the Charleston shooting, his comments are part of the larger effort by conservative media to steer the public conversation about the massacre away from the underlying factors of racism and gun laws.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule in Obergefell v. Hodges this month, finally deciding whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional. Whatever the decision, media outlets will inevitably ask anti-LGBT activists and groups for comment, which will be another opportunity for them to peddle baseless attacks on marriage equality.
Here are some guidelines for media outlets who want to avoid some of the most common mistakes made during media discussions about marriage equality:
In recent debates over marriage equality, anti-LGBT groups and activists have trotted out the same tired "horror stories" about the supposedly negative consequences of same-sex marriage on religious liberty, including that:
All these claims were thoroughly debunked years ago, but news outlets tend to cite them without checking the facts. Journalists should avoid lending credibility to anti-equality myths and hold commentators who push this kind of misinformation accountable.
When discussing the potential impact of national marriage equality, journalists should cite empirical data from states where same-sex marriages have been legal for years.
Massachusetts, for example, has allowed same-sex couples to marry for over a decade. A recent report by the Associated Press examined Massachusetts' state marriage records to judge the results of what it called the "longest-running real-world test of what happens when gay couples are allowed to tie the knot." The investigation found that Massachusetts has maintained one of "the lowest divorce rates of any state - both before and after gay marriage was legalized."
Vermont, which was the first state to introduce civil unions -- almost exactly 15 years ago -- and has allowed same-sex marriage since 2009, reports similar marriage and divorce data, with an annual 0.3 percent dissolution for same-sex couples versus an overall divorce rate of 3.8. In fact, a study by the National Institutes of Health shows that gay married couples actually report less conflict in their unions than heterosexual counterparts.
Similar findings in other states suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage produces tangible benefits, including a bolstered economy. These positive effects of legalized gay marriage debunk much of the anti-gay speculation surrounding marriage equality.
Opponents of marriage equality frequently use flawed social science to produce so-called evidence of the harms of same-sex marriage. The majority of available evidence shows that there is no difference between the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by opposite-sex couples. Yet marriage equality opponents continue to push the myth that same-sex parenting is harmful to children by citing flawed research. Journalists should be prepared for opponents to reference an infamous paper authored by University of Texas Associate Professor Mark Regnerus - a widely discredited study frequently used by gay marriage opponents purporting to show that children raised by gay parents suffer negative consequences.
Arguments that gay marriage will lead to an increase in abortions or higher rates of divorce are based on similarly shoddy social science and media should be prepared to respond to bogus appeals to anti-LGBT research.
Mainstream media often fail to give their audiences relevant information about guests they ask to comment on marriage equality. If a guest represents an anti-LGBT hate group for example -- like the Family Research Council or American College of Pediatricians -- identifying the person as such is essential to providing audiences the context they need to assess that guest's point of view. On CBS' Face the Nation this past April, Bob Schieffer exemplified how the media should introduce such opponents when he accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay hate group. Schieffer's decision to properly identify Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, infuriated anti-LGBT conservatives, who rely on softball media interviews to whitewash their extreme positions. Anti-LGBT groups also frequently use legal scholars and academics to advance their talking points without revealing the animus that motivates their work.
Pitting religious communities against proponents of marriage equality is a common practice in the media, but it ignores the fact that most religious people support legalizing same-sex marriage. Media outlets have historically had trouble separating anti-LGBT animus from sincere, mainstream religious belief, framing the debate instead as a "God vs. Gays" issue. A recent study found significant margins of people in major religious groups -- including 84 percent of Buddhists, 77 percent of Jews, 60 percent of Catholics, and 56 percent of Orthodox Christians -- support same-sex marriage. Among all religiously affiliated Americans, supporters are in the plurality, with 47 percent favoring same-sex marriage, compared to 45 percent who oppose it.
Aside from misrepresenting support for marriage equality among religious people, elevating the "God vs. Gays" myth reinforces the right-wing campaign for anti-LGBT "religious freedom" laws. Coverage of the marriage equality decision will offer media outlets an opportunity to accurately portray the support for same-sex marriage among religious groups, and dispel inaccurate tropes about religion and gay people.
Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson routinely appears in the media under the guise of a serious academic opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBT equality. But despite the veneer of credibility his resume provides, Anderson routinely peddles false and misleading claims about the LGBT community and legal protections for LGBT people.
Anderson is a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, where he "researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty." He graduated with a B.A. in music from Princeton University and earned a doctorate in political philosophy at Notre Dame. Since co-authoring the 2012 book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, Anderson has become one of the most prominent media spokespersons in the fight against marriage equality.
Media outlets routinely present Anderson as a scholar whose position against same-sex marriage and LGBT equality, though unpopular, is based on arguments that are supported by academic research. A recent profile of Anderson in The Washington Post headlined "The Right Finds a Fresh Voice on Same-Sex Marriage" described him as "the conservative movement's fresh-faced, millennial, Ivy League-educated spokesman against same-sex marriage," and explained his mainstream media appeal:
Anderson is becoming a prominent face of the opposition in news media appearances.
His appeal in part owes something to counter-programming. A Princeton graduate with a doctorate in economic policy from Notre Dame, his views are at odds with other elite academics with whom he has so much in common. They are the opposite of those in his demographic. A devout Catholic, he nonetheless believes it a losing argument to oppose the legality of same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds.
Also in his favor: He's telegenic, an enthusiastic debater, and he can talk for hours.
Anderson's own bio at the Heritage Foundation touts his frequent major media appearances:
Anderson's broadcast and cable appearances include news programs on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. His work has been featured in or published by major newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, National Review, Weekly Standard and Christianity Today. It also has appeared in journals such as Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, First Things, Claremont Review of Books, New Atlantis, Touchstone, Books and Culture, The City and Human Life Review.
Anderson's carefully crafted anti-LGBT talking points are devoid of the kind of "fire and brimstone" rhetoric commonly heard from anti-LGBT commentators, which makes him a popular choice for media outlets looking to host debates about LGBT equality. His polished speaking style further reinforces his reputation as a serious, trustworthy expert.
But the media's willingness to portray Anderson as a fair-minded academic belies that fact that he routinely relies on flawed research and cherry-picked anecdotes to advance his anti-LGBT agenda.
Anderson frequently relies on shoddy and discredited research to support his arguments against LGBT equality.
A prime example is a 2012 paper Anderson frequently cites by University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus, called "How Different Are The Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?" The paper seems to suggest that children raised by same-sex parents fare worse than children raised by heterosexual ones. Regenerus' paper is one of the most widely-discredited pieces of research in the field of LGBT studies because it relied on problematic methodology to achieve its findings. An internal audit conducted by the same journal that published Regnerus' paper bluntly called it "bullshit" because it did not look at children raised in intact households of married same-sex couples. Darren Sherkat, who led the internal review, stated (emphasis added):
When we talk about Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study. It's over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better.
Anderson's reliance on pseudoscience often leads him to make absurd claims about same-sex couples. The Washington Post profile quotes him answering a question from the audience at a forum with discredited social science claims (emphasis added):
Same-sex relationships are less stable than opposite-sex relationships. A female-female relationship is the most short-lived, he says, "not because it's a lesbian relationship," but because it involves two women, who are more likely to leave when their emotional needs are not met.
Male-male relationships, he says, tend to be less stable, "not because it's a gay relationship," but because men are more sexually permissive. "That's where you tend to get the concept of 'monogamish' -- a two-person relationship but sexually open."
Anderson's embrace of unsound research extends beyond his opposition to marriage equality. During an April 27, 2015 appearance on CNN's New Day with Chris Cuomo to discuss Caitlyn Jenner's transition to a woman, Anderson touted discredited research by the notoriously transphobic Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Paul McHugh to push the debunked argument that "transition regret" is common among transgender people.
Anderson also routinely peddles dishonest attacks against efforts to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
In his Heritage Foundation report, "Marriage Matters: Consequences of Redefining Marriage," for example, Anderson claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts forced Catholic adoption agencies to close (false) and resulted in public schools being forced to teach children about same-sex marriages (also false). He's repeatedly warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would create a slippery slope to "throuples" -- three people in a marriage -- and polygamy.
In 2014, Anderson twice parroted the bogus story ordained ministers in an Idaho town being "forced" to perform same-sex marriages or face jail time. In reality, the ministers had received no threats of any legal action from the town and were able to remain exempt from local non-discrimination laws by registering their chapel as a religious non-profit.
In an error-filled report criticizing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Anderson claimed that extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT employees would create "special privileges" and punish workers who have religious convictions about homosexuality.
Anderson is the founder and editor of Public Discourse, an online publication funded by the conservative Witherspoon Institute, which was also one of the major funders of the disgraced Regnerus study. As editor, Anderson has used Public Discourse as a platform for fringe and extremist rhetoric, including:
Public Discourse is also notorious for publishing the testimony of anti-LGBT children of gay parents, including virulently anti-gay Robert Oscar Lopez. Lopez has used Public Discourse to compare same-sex parenting to child abuse, and has relied on the fact that he was raised by a mother in a same-sex relationship as a child to claim that he "grew up in a house so unusual that [he] was destined to exist as a social outcast" because he had no male figure to teach him how to be "bold and unflinching."
Anderson is motivated by the same fringe ideas about LGBT equality that have led mainstream media outlets to sideline other leaders of the anti-gay movement - namely, the belief that LGBT people can "treat" or "cure" their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Anderson has embraced the idea that being gay is an ailment that can be treated since his college days. He once authored a column in the Daily Princetonian that compared being gay to alcoholism and pedophilia, suggesting that all LGBT people should practice abstinence. Anderson also called on the Princeton LGBT Center to invite Paul Scalia -- chaplain of the COURAGE ministry, which shames LGBT people into lifelong celibacy -- to an event.
In 2007, Anderson authored a lengthy column that described a friend, "Chris" who "suffers same-sex attractions, he doesn't want to, and he seeks to be made whole again." In 2012, he touted a New York Times article about "ex-gay" men who believe that reparative therapy has helped change their sexual orientation.
Anderson has also hinted at supporting reparative therapy for transgender people. He tweeted his opposition to "Leelah's Law," a proposed federal law to ban medically-repudiated "conversion therapy" for minors named for transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide in 2014. Anderson also claimed a ban on conversion therapy would "hurt children," despite the fact that major medical organizations denounce the practice as harmful.
With a looming Supreme Court decision and a book about marriage equality already slated to be published later this year, Anderson will likely continue making the rounds on major media outlets. His academic background and well-rehearsed talking points have given the anti-LGBT movement a media savvy spokesperson who stands in contrast to the kind of right-wing firebrands most Americans have grown accustomed to. But they don't make him any more credible when it comes to discussing LGBT issues. Anderson's history of spouting misinformation, promoting debunked and flawed research, and providing a platform to anti-gay extremists undermine his credibility as a "scholar" and serious commentator. Media outlets should treat him accordingly.
From the June 16 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the June 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the June 15 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Rupert Murdoch described as "almost fascist" Hillary Clinton's remarks in support of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans during her campaign launch speech.
Murdoch falsely claimed during a stream of tweets referencing her June 13 speech that Clinton had "promise[d to] outlaw free speech about LGBT," adding, "Sounds almost fascist."
HillaryNo Promises outlaw free speech about LGBT. What next? Sounds almost fascist.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) June 14, 2015
It's unclear to what Murdoch was referring. During her speech, Clinton stated that "we should ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families so they can live, learn, marry, and work just like everybody else." Earlier, she recognized "[b]usiness leaders who want higher pay for employees, equal pay for women and no discrimination against the LGBT community either."
In recent months, Clinton has urged the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality and condemned proposed so-called "religious freedom" legislation in Arkansas and Indiana on the grounds that they provide a legal defense "beyond protecting religion" for business owners who discriminate against LGBT people.
In a 2011 speech as Secretary of State, she stated that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights."
Murdoch recently announced that he would step down as CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, ceding the title to his son, James. He will remain executive chairman of the company, as well as chairman of News Corp., parent company of The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, among other media properties.
Texas radio host Michael Berry has a long history of making sexist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, and anti-African-American comments on his radio show. He also has posted several racially-tinged videos to his show's YouTube channel that criticize African-Americans, and posted racially insensitive comments on social media like Facebook.
From the June 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 9 Family Research Council panel "Marriage and Civil Rights: How to Respond Rightly If the Court Gets It Wrong:"
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Fox & Friends mocked students pushing for gender-neutral, uniform graduation robes in Maryland schools as the "P.C. police."
Students in Montgomery County, Maryland, are pushing for district schools to switch from a gendered dual-color scheme to single-color robes for all graduates. According to The Washington Post, the effort started at James Hubert Blake High School after the school's gay-straight alliance became aware that four students at another county high school were barred from wearing the color robe that conformed with their gender identity:
The student group believed single-color robes were the best way to go for many of their peers, including those who are transgender or questioning their gender identity.
So they wrote to the principals last June, noting that colleges use robes in one color as well as practical benefits of a change: Same-color robes make it easier for staff to organize students and for families watching the ceremony to follow along. Girls would no longer have to buy white outfits to wear beneath white robes, and more families would be able to pass down robes from child to child.
On the June 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased a segment on the school's decision to adopt uniform graduation robes for all students by saying "I believe there's way too many gender-bending stories in the news right now":
Later in the show, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced a segment on the graduation robes by claiming "the P.C. police are on patrol in Maryland schools, and this time mandating that graduation robes be gender-neutral." Hasselbeck spoke to Julie Gunlock, the Culture of Alarmism Director of the conservative Independent Women's Forum, who asserted that students should worry about "real hardship in the world" like ISIS:
GUNLOCK: I do think it's also important that educators and parents teach kids about real hardship in the world, I mean, in ISIS-controlled Iraq, you have women that are being raped and mutilated and murdered. Homosexuals are being thrown off rooftops; Christians are being hunted down and executed. This seems to me the real issues we should be concerned about -- not having to wear a color that conflicts with your own identity for one hour.
Blake High School's Allies 4 Equality explained the significance of gender-neutral robes in a letter to county principals: "Graduation is a day of celebration. People don't feel like they can celebrate if they feel pressured to accept gender roles that make them uncomfortable. Some in the community may protest that two colors of robes is a tradition. Our concern is that this tradition is hurtful to some students, who may not have the courage to speak out about it."
From the June 7 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry:
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