Conservative media outlets are lauding a legislative effort to enact what experts are calling an attempt to reincarnate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the core provision of which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last summer.
On February 12, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Senate version of the State Marriage Defense Act, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) in January. The bill would require the federal government to yield to state definitions of marriage, meaning that same-sex spouses would lose the federal benefits and protections of marriage if they moved to states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Accordingly, ThinkProgress has dubbed the bill the "'You're Not Married Anymore' Bill."
The bill - which stands an infinitesimal chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate - would push back on the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling against Section 3 of DOMA, which barred the federal government from recognizing validly performed same-sex marriages. Section 2 of DOMA, which wasn't considered in the Supreme Court case, allows states to define marriage, but there's a strong argument - increasingly supported by the courts - that the logical end-point of the Supreme Court's ruling is the demise of state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples.
Since the Court issued its ruling, five federal courts have overturned state marriage equality bans, citing Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion that DOMA served no legitimate purpose. The most recent such ruling came on February 13 when U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen struck down Virginia's marriage equality ban.
Right-wing media, however, won't let DOMA die without waging a fight for anti-gay discrimination.
Breitbart.com championed Cruz and Lee's bill as a defense of state's rights, reprising the argument advanced by anti-civil rights figures who supported placing racial minorities' constitutional rights at the whim of state authorities. The website's William Bigelow asserted that the bill "protects the states from having the federal government encroach" on their ability to deny equal rights to same-sex couples.
Following the same narrative, The Daily Caller touted the bill as an effort "to prevent the federal government from imposing conflicting definitions of marriage on the states," promoting Cruz's claim that President Obama "should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states." PJ Media also acted as stenographer for the bill's sponsors, extensively quoting the bill in addition to Cruz and lee. The bill, PJ Media's headline read, tells the federal government to "mind states' rights on same-sex marriage."
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro asserted that "[t]his is not a country that discriminates against homosexuals," despite the persistence of marriage equality bans, anti-LGBT employment discrimination, and hate crimes.
In a February 10 interview with Fusion TV's Jorge Ramos, Shapiro weighed in on National Football League prospect Michael Sam's recent announcement that he's gay. Even as the rabid opponent of marriage equality, anti-discrimination protections, and efforts to end anti-LGBT bullying asserted he was "happy" for Sam, Shapiro reprised an argument he made in a Breitbart.com column depicting Sam as the useful pawn of a liberal media intent on proving America is homophobic. When Ramos pressed Shapiro on whether gays encounter discrimination in the U.S., Shapiro was unwilling to acknowledge anything more than "a vastly minute amount":
SHAPIRO: I would say there is a vastly minute amount of discrimination against gays in this country. The FBI statistics show there are about the same number of attacks on Jews in this country as there are homosexuals. This is not a country that discriminates against Jews and homosexuals. When we do find somebody who discriminates against homosexuals, they should be called out by every person of good-hearted intent as they are in the United States 2014. This is not 1952.
Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.
Many conservatives lashed out at Coca-Cola for their Super Bowl advertisement featuring a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful." Fox contributor Allen West declared that America is "on the road to perdition," Fox host Eric Bolling complained that it was wrong to use America the Beautiful, and someone at Breitbart News even wrote that the ad shows America is "no longer a nation ruled by the Constitution." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
But anchorwoman Brenda Wood of WXIA in Atlanta demolished these myths in her segment 'Brenda's Last Word.' Wood explained how diversity is what America is built on, citing Emma Lazarus' sonnet 'The New Colossus' on the Statue of Liberty. Wood also touched on the absurdity of nativists rallying around a language from another country, and she pointed out the identity of the woman who wrote the words to 'America the Beautiful.'
Right-wing media outlets and personalities attacked a Coca-Cola ad aired during the Super Bowl that featured members of different cultures singing "America the Beautiful" in several languages.
Days before the world's attention turns to Russia for the launch of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, conservative website Breitbart.com touted Russian President Vladimir Putin's support for "Christian values," citing the country's ban on "homosexual propaganda" while ignoring the horrific consequences Russia's anti-gay laws have had for LGBT citizens.
On January 29, Breitbart highlighted a Washington Times report on Putin's recent criticism of the U.S. for its alleged drift away from Christian principles, a rhetorical broadside fired amid the Kremlin's larger push to impose a hardline interpretation of Orthodox Christianity on Russian society. Echoing Pat Buchanan's recent assertion that "Barack Obama's America" has taken the erstwhile Soviet Union's place as the evil empire of the world, Breitbart suggested that Putin's attack on U.S. secularism indicated that Russia and the U.S. had switched places (emphasis added):
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the West, including the United States, for eschewing Christian values and opting instead for a "path to degradation."
In his State of the Nation speech last month, Putin asserted that, "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values... Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan." Russia has adopted new laws that ban homosexual propaganda and criminalizes the insulting of religious sensibilities.
The law on religious sensibilities was approved in the wake of a protest in Moscow's largest cathedral by a female punk rock group, Pussy Riot. State-run television said the group's "demonic" protest was funded by "some Americans." Russia's newfound embrace of traditional values has prompted a rise in Orthodox vigilantism. Extreme groups such as the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, an ultraconservative faction who adopted a slogan "Orthodoxy or Death," are gaining prominence.
It was not that long ago that the United States was accusing Russia for being a "godless nation."
Breitbart went on to recite the Soviet Union's history of anti-Christian persecution. What the website seemed less interested in exploring was the persecution resulting from the country's crackdown on LGBT people and their allies. The "homosexual propaganda" ban Breitbart referred to could encompass positive depictions of LGBT people, displaying the rainbow flag, public displays of affection by same-sex couples, and even coming out as LGBT. Harrowing reports reveal how state-sanctioned homophobia has fueled a climate of increased anti-LGBT violence and vigilantism.
Breitbart, however, is more likely to cheer on the Kremlin's assault on LGBT human rights than to lay bare its terrifying consequences. The website's Austin Ruse has firmly established himself as one of the crackdown's foremost American conservative defenders, claiming that Russia's anti-gay laws are vital to "human rights" and protecting "the innocence of children." According to Ruse, Russia's persecution of gay people is part of a laudable effort to "resist ... the political movement to regularize and even celebrate" homosexuality.
With its latest report on "Russia's newfound embrace of traditional values," Breitbart has once again adopted language that sounds no different than that employed by the Kremlin to defend its war on LGBT human rights. Such whitewashing provides media organizations an example of what to avoid as they train their focus on Russia in the coming month.
Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro predicted that Hollywood - credited with shifting American public opinion in favor of marriage equality - will soon push sentiment the other way, asserting that the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards exposes the entertainment industry's "hatred of Biblical values."
In a January 29 TownHall.com column titled "How Hollywood Is Killing Same-Sex Marriage," Shapiro baselessly asserted that Americans were beginning to abandon their support for marriage equality, arguing that the Grammys ceremony marked a key turning point. Joining other right-wing media figures in blasting the ceremony, Shapiro criticized Hollywood's "perverted" concept of marriage and its "anti-Biblical" support for the "destruction of traditional values" (emphasis added):
This wasn't an argument for same-sex marriage. It wasn't even attractive image-making on behalf of same-sex marriage. It was hatred of Biblical values cloaked in pietistic nonsense.
Begin with the marriages themselves. The only rationale for getting married on the Grammys en masse would be either attention-seeking or spite toward Americans with traditional values, or both. Neither of these rationales scream "love," "commitment" or "societal building block."
Move on to the cheering audience -- a group of anti-marriage Hollywoodites who largely see the institution itself as patriarchal. The same folks standing up for same-sex marriage at the Grammys largely scorn the institution of marriage itself. The only time they embrace marriage is when it is being mocked, undermined or perverted. That's not a cuddly case for same-sex marriage.
But this is Hollywood unmasked: angry, vindictive, self-righteous, anti-Biblical. The case for same-sex marriage rests on an application of Biblical principle -- monogamy and commitment -- to actions condemned by Biblical text. For years, Hollywood was able to get away with perverting the Bible by ignoring it. But in its rush to congratulate itself for overthrowing Biblical values without a shot, Hollywood spiked the football and revealed its true agenda. And that agenda is not the agenda of tolerance for individuals, but an ugly agenda of unearned moral superiority via destruction of traditional values.
His latest bigoted tirade fits a pattern of homophobic statements on Shapiro's part. An outspoken critic of efforts to combat anti-LGBT bullying, Shapiro has also waged baseless attacks on the "tyranny" of anti-discrimination laws, warned that marriage equality would force churches to perform same-sex marriages, and touted Matthew Shepard Trutherism because he sees it as a convenient way of undercutting the LGBT's movement's "broader agenda."
Right-wing media figures condemned the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, describing the ceremony as an attack on Christianity.
Conservative media figures relied on gender norms to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as an uncaring mother after learning of her decision to give her ex-husband custody of her children as she pursued her law degree.
On January 18th, The Dallas Morning News reported that "some facts have been blurred" in Wendy Davis' personal story, including that she had been 21, not 19, when she divorced her first husband. The paper also reported that when Davis and her second husband were divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody of her two children, one teenager and one adult.
Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
Right-wing media have responded to a Supreme Court justice's decision to temporarily block the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate by falsely claiming that abortifacients are included in the coverage required by the health care law.
The right-wing media is pouncing on a federal judge's ruling striking down parts of Utah's anti-polygamy law, using the decision to assert that legalized polygamy is an inevitable consequence of the slippery slope created by marriage equality for same-sex couples.
On December 13, Judge Clark Waddoups, a U.S. District Court judge in Utah appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a decision finding that Utah's ban on "cohabitation" violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. The case, Brown v. Buhman, was brought by Kody Brown, a star of the reality television show "Sister Wives."
Conservative media outlets immediately linked the decision to the push for same-sex marriage rights. FrontPageMag proclaimed that "[t]urning gay marriage into a thing paves the way for legalizing polygamy. As everyone with a brain predicted." "Judge Cites Same-Sex Marriage in Declaring Polygamy Ban Unconstitutional," Breitbart.com reported. And even as he acknowledged that the decision didn't vindicate opponents of marriage rights for gay couples, Commentary's Jonathan Tobin declared that "[t]he floodgates have been opened."
In reality, here's what media outlets need to know about Judge Waddoups' ruling:
With Brown likely headed toward an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, it's far from clear whether Waddoups' ruling will stand. What should be obvious, though, is that contrary to the right wing's willful distortion of the decision, it's neither the inevitable consequence of same-sex marriage nor the first step toward legalized polygamy.
Conservative media figures have attacked House Speaker John Boehner for accusing tea party groups of undercutting Republican Party interests, claiming that Boehner did so to facilitate passage of "amnesty" in 2014. But the "amnesty" label that right-wing figures affix to immigration reform has been disputed even by Republican lawmakers opposed to reform.
Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate imposes severe hurdles and makes undocumented immigrants wait 13 years before they can even begin to apply for citizenship.
As the Washington Post explained:
One of the weaknesses of the public conversation about immigration is that any proposal under which the final result for some undocumented immigrants is citizenship gets labeled "amnesty." But in reality, most proposals put a ton of hurdles between such immigrants' current status and that goal.
The Post included this graph from the Center for American Progress, which drives home the absurdity of calling what basically amounts to a 13-year wait -- that may or may not result in citizenship -- an "amnesty":
As the Post reported on December 12, Boehner criticized tea party and ultra-conservative groups who came out against a recently passed bi-partisan budget deal, calling them "misleading" and without "credibility," and saying they are "working against the interests of the Republican Party."
After Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation -- in which he criticized global inequalities of wealth and the tenets of so-called trickle-down economics -- right-wing media went on the attack, characterizing the pope's treatise as "disturbingly ignorant" and "pure Marxism."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade group, is pushing back on a conspiracy theory promoted by right-wing media that the Obama administration is using the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate the domestic ammunition supply.
In November, The Doe Run Company announced that they will shutter their primary lead smelter at the end of the year -- the last such facility in the country -- as part of a settlement the company reached with the EPA in 2010. The settlement also involves the payment of $7 million in civil fines for violations of environmental law and an agreement to spend $65 million to correct past violations. A Doe Run senior communications liaison explained to The Salem News Online that, "The closure was really a result of increasing standards and an aging facility" and noted that it would be too expensive for the company to comply with clean air regulations.
Conservative media have claimed the EPA move was a backdoor attempt to limit the supply of lead ammunition. But responding to those conspiracies, NSSF senior vice president Lawrence Keane told The Washington Times that, "Manufacturers use recycled lead to make ammunition. They don't buy from smelters. The EPA closing, which has been in the works for a while, will have no impact on production, supply or cost to the consumers."
As Keane suggested, the root of the ring-wing media's conspiracy theory is the mistaken belief that ammunition must be made from lead obtained from the earth as opposed to recycled lead. Even Doe Run, which also operates a secondary lead smelting operation, noted in a November 7 press release that the closure will only affect products that require primary lead.