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Anti-Gay Amendments: Media Recognizes Measures as Unnecessary October 28, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, public opinion.
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As progressives prepare for what might be the most exciting election year since 1992, campaigns in eight states are fighting to keep their state constitutions free of discriminatory amendments. There has been much optimism over the potential to defeat anti-marriage equality amendments in two states, Wisconsin and Virginia, but with only a week left it is looking like an uphill battle.

Fair Wisconsin has waged a smart and effective campaign that emphasizes the amendment’s far-reaching consequences… not only would it ban marriage, it would ban civil unions and possibly other forms of same-sex relationship recognition. The message seems to have played well over the past year or so, but as it comes down to the wire, there is still a sizeable gap between supporters and opponents. A St. Norbert College Survey Center poll released last week shows 51 percent of likely voters supporting the amendment, compared to 44 percent who are opposed. Support for the amendment has been pushed by conservative churches, most likely with the help of national organizations such as Focus on the Family.

The Commonwealth Coalition in Virginia has also run a promising campaign that has faced a more skeptical public than Fair Wisconsin has. In July of this year, 56 percent of Virginians supported the amendment and only 38 percent were opposed. Today that gap has narrowed by 8 percent, with only 52 percent of Virginians supporting the amendment and 42 percent opposed. The Commonwealth Coalition has been able to sway Virginians using a number of tactics, one of which asserts that Virginia’s bill of rights was a model for the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Right, and that changing it would be fundamentally misguided (see ad here).

The passion that flamed anti-gay sentiment in the 2004 elections seems to have calmed a bit, and newspaper editorial staffs now seem to be able to see through anti-gay rhetoric and analyze the amendments for what they truly are.

Of the seven mainstream Wisconsin newspapers that have run editorials on the amendment, only one has supported banning same-sex marriage (the Green Bay Press-Gazette). The state papers with the largest circulations (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times) have all opposed the amendment.

Some highlights from Wisconsin editorials:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [from before the Assembly approved the measure]:

…the law of the land is secular, not sectarian. Moreover, we note that not everyone who claims religious faith has the same views on gays. And some note that the New Testament, at least, says much more about such virtues as charity, kindness and eschewing wealth than about homosexuality…

The other reason given for the amendment usually has to do with the “will of the people” or the need “for the people to be heard.” In other words, “we” can do this because there are more of “us” than “them,” otherwise known as “you people.”

We hope there are far fewer in this other editorial “we” than amendment backers hope. We’ve heard variations of this discrimination argument applied to other groups of people. It doesn’t sound any better this time.

The Capital Times:

This is not merely discrimination. It is cruelty. And it is a form of cruelty that will cause young people to leave the state, convince pioneering researchers to leave the University of Wisconsin and force responsible businesses to locate their factories and offices elsewhere…

Wisconsin is about more than its business climate, however. Even if the amendment did not pose such a clear threat to the state’s economic prospects, it would be wrong for Wisconsin.

Amending the constitution to require discrimination goes against everything that Wisconsin stands for. It breaks faith with the most fundamental of the values that have guided this state for all of its 158 years.

***

Editorials on Virginia’s amendment have often expressed little doubt that the measure will pass, but of the seven newspapers that have taken a clear stand on the amendment, only two have encouraged support for the amendment (Danville Register & Bee and the Washington Examiner).

Some highlights from Virginia editorials:

Daily Press:

But at the core the truth is that this amendment speaks of two things: A deep-seated prejudice against gays and lesbians.

The reality that there are among us, always, people who seek to use fear and prejudice for their own political advancement…

Make no mistake, this amendment goes beyond its stated intent of protecting marriage. It hurts gays and lesbians. It will hurt unmarried partners regardless of their sexual orientation. It will hurt us all.

Bristol Herald Courier:

Tampering with either state’s constitution in this manner is redundant. It reinforces an attitude of intolerance or hostility toward those who are different. It is a dangerous government foray into the realm of religion and a blow to individual rights.

In this nation’s history, most constitutional amendments have granted freedoms rather than taking them away – prohibition being the obvious exception. Virginia and Tennessee voters should think twice before altering these hallowed precepts to ban that which is already illegal.

A “no” vote is not a vote for same-sex unions. It is a vote to protect our constitutions and to respect freedom. We cannot think of a more traditionally conservative stand to take.

***

While the majority of media outlets seem to have taken a hard stance against marriage amendments, the American public has not quite reached that point. Fear created by the anti-gay right has fueled opposition to same-sex marriage, yet many who support the amendment still struggle to find a reason for the amendment beyond “protecting marriage.” Ask them how it protects marriage and their arguments usually hit a dead-end.

The recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, which requires the legislature to give all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples (without forcing them to call it marriage), has renewed anti-gay rhetoric about “activist judges.” Although New Jersey did not ban same-sex marriage while all the states with proposed amendments do, anti-gay activists refuse to explain this to voters and have distorted the ruling for their own gain. Whether the New Jersey decision hurts efforts to defeat state amendments has yet to be seen, but with only a week to go, we can only hope that voters realize these amendments are unnecessary measures designed to bolster cynical election campaigns.

Let’s hope Wisconsinites and Virginians recognize the media’s fair analysis of anti-gay amendments while they enter the voting booths on November 7.

Visit the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for more editorials on amendments in the eight states with anti-gay ballot initiatives.

The Rosie Aftermath: Now People Compare Gays and Islamic Extremists September 19, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in lgbt Issues, media.
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As Rosie O’Donnell continues to be bombarded with criticism for her comments comparing radical Islam and radical Christianity, others have begun using the Islamic comparison for other minority groups. Over at GayPatriot, a conservative gay blog, readers have started making comparisons between the way Muslims and gay and lesbian people portray themselves to a “mainstream” audience. Although their comments are in good-faith, they are also severely misguided and point the blame towards the wrong people.

Here are selections from the GayPatriot post:

Muslims and gays have the same problem. Who is doing the talking. The crazy ones. Whenever there is a gay issue who is doing the taliking [sic] some freak in pants with the ass cut out and nipple clamps. Most gay people aren’t like that why domn’t [sic] they tell that freak to sit down and shut up. Most Muslims don’t think burning churches and stoning women is a good idea. Why don’t they ever stand up and say shut up you backwards ass cave dwelling freaks. You don’t speak for us…

And from another GayPatriot reader addressing the topic:

…Am I endorsing this behavior because I don’t say that I disagree with it publicly in the same way I believe Muslims are endorsing radical Islam by not speaking out against it? My problem of course is what forum do I have for speaking out against the outrageous behavior of gays and Lesbians in my community, but then what forum does your average Muslim have for speaking out?

Although I agree that the more flamboyant in the LGBT community probably shape an image of gay people that is not accurate, there are several problems with this comparison. The first and by far most important point is that a gay man wearing nipple clamps is in no way harming any individual aside from himself (I would imagine that nipple clamps hurt like hell). Islamic extremists, not Muslims in general, often times brutalize and murder people for no reason beyond a warped view of the Quran. There is an enormous difference between someone who is outside the mainstream and someone who murders because of ideology.

This is important to note because the GayPatriot post advocates publicly condemning the flamboyant in our community, just as it encourages Muslims to speak out against Islamic extremists. It is entirely fair to say one does not identify with those who wear nipple clamps and buttless pants (I know I sure don’t), but it is entirely different to condemn them for it. These people are causing no harm, and for a heterosexual or gay person to attack flamboyant gays is no better than the anti-gay groups who attack gay people for expressing themselves differently than the “mainstream”. I am a cookie-cutter New Yorker who is unlikely to stand out, but unless the feather-boa wearing gay is harming me, I say live and let live.

My other disagreement with the GayPatriot post is the belief that “crazy” gays are the ones speaking for the LGBT community. This is ridiculously inaccurate. When a gay or lesbian representative is on Fox News or other mainstream news programs, it is very rarely someone in full queen garb. We see people like Joe Solmonese of HRC and Neil Guiliano of GLAAD… hardly the dress-wearing nipple clamp type. Where we do see the more flamboyant gays is in b-roll footage used for news stories. Although this does not help the image of our movement, it is the irresponsibility of the media, not flamboyant gays, for using images of Pride to talk about non-related issues like discrimination protection and marriage.

So if you are going to blame anyone for casting gay people as fashion-loving, cross-dressing queens, blame the media. I believe Fox News purposely uses video of Pride to help stereotype gays and lesbians, since many other networks have become much more careful when selecting footage. Nonetheless, those who do tend to be part of the non-violent extreme have every right to do so in this system we call democracy, and it is not anyone’s place to tell them how to act. Calling on Muslims to denounce radical Islam, which lives off violence and murder, is a much different scenario than a couple of drag queens on a float during Pride.

The Anchor Wars: Will Katie Couric Change the Landscape of American News? August 19, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in media, women's rights.
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The Most Trusted Name in News. Fair and Balanced. Your Trusted Source. More Americans Get Their News… Than From Any Other Source. America’s News Leader.

As Katie Couric gets set to take over for Bob Schieffer on the Evening News, CBS spokespeople have touted their ability to launch the new anchor without a “fancy slogan”. This lack of a catchy slogan, however, does not imply an absent public relations campaign. CBS has launched an ad blitz that would cost over $10 million dollars if they had to pay for the advertising media buys, although it is not the case because much of the ads appear in CBS-owned media.

But will the relatively young anchor, mostly known for her fluffy reporting on The Today Show, be able to compete with the typical middle-aged men on the other two networks? Currently CBS is third in the evening news rankings, with NBC’s Brian Williams leading the pack and ABC’s Charles Gibson at least 800,000 viewers behind. CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer has lagged behind NBC Nightly News by 1.5 million viewers.

Katie Couric represents modernity and a welcome change from the cookie-cutter anchors of the past, but being a woman may prove a difficult obstacle in an evening news setting dominated by men. Former ABC World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas was removed from the anchor chair a few months ago… some say because of sexism, others because she was pregnant. Regardless, being a female played a critical role in both her arrival and departure on World News Tonight. Is America still hesitant to accept a female anchor?

Couric’s gender also has the potential to play a role in her success. Many people would find it difficult to find a distinguishing characteristic between Charles Gibson or Brian Williams… or Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather for that matter. Couric’s stark contrast to other newscasters, in both approach and appearance, could help bring the trailing CBS Evening News back to the top again.

Some argue that Couric will attract women news viewers and therefore push CBS news into the top-slot. Although this remains a possibility, a similar argument was set forth regarding politics during the women’s rights movement. With more women voters would come more women elected to political offices. This turned out to be somewhat true… the number of women holding public office did increase, but women have yet to come close to holding a majority of seats in Congress, despite being the majority gender. It seems as if women do not attach themselves to politicians, or maybe news anchors, simply because they are of the same sex.

It is an exciting time of intense competition for the broadcast evening news programs. Promotion campaigns matching those of primetime sitcoms have dominated CBS for weeks now. But it is all about “trust”, at least according to the prized news slogans, and Couric has never been known for her hard-hitting reporting or memorable interviews.

Many, including myself, hope that Katie Couric proves to be the anchor CBS is looking for. She has charisma and integrity, but it has yet to be determined whether gender will play a role in her success or failure. I thought America was ready for a woman anchor when Elizabeth Vargas teamed up with Bob Woodruff in January 2006, but I may have been wrong. If Katie Couric is not able to attract viewers and close the gap with the other two networks, broadcast news networks may be more hesitant to place a woman in the top seat. For the sake of not having another generation of monotonous, indistinguishable, white male news anchors, let’s hope America comes to love Katie Couric.

Congress May Not Understand Priorities, but Today the Media Did July 18, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, congress, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, politics.
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Today’s Headlines:

  • Israeli Planes Batter Lebanon Again, Killing 30 People [NY Times]
  • Gonzales: Bush Blocked Eavesdropping Probe [Washington Post]
  • Over 3,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed in June, U.N. Report Says [NY Times]
  • Car Bombing Kills Dozens in Iraq [BBC]

And as the worldwide crises deepen, the U.S. House takes decisive action… by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment for half the day. The amendment failed, as predicted, but somehow our representatives felt discussing same-sex marriage has priority over Iraq, domestic spying and the Middle East conflict.

Conservatives in the House are no longer just avoiding domestic issues to placate their base, they are avoiding taking action to save human lives. Our soldiers are dying on foreign soil, innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians are being bombarded with rockets and missiles, but gay frickin’ marriage remains on the debate schedule?

The Good News: Republicans in the House were hoping to get another media blitz by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment… hoping against hope that if same-sex marriage is brought up enough by the mainstream media, moderate conservatives will forget about Iraq and the economy and still vote for them in the November elections.

However, cable news channels barely covered the debate today. The mainstream media (despite what you may think of them), realizes the loss of human life is much more important and immediate than banning gay people from walking down the aisle. Republicans did not get the media blitz they were hoping for because most Americans have found better things to worry about.

Political pandering to this degree is a disgrace to our democracy and our institutions. Let’s hope that November will help bring us a Congress that cares about real people, not just another group of politicians that place fundraising issues over real issues.

Today’s Heroes: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the 27 Republicans who had the courage to vote against their anti-gay base.

Attacking The New York Times… With Fake Anthrax July 14, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in media, terrorism.
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New York police rushed to The New York Times building today after an employee opened a letter that contained a white powdery substance that had the potential to be anthrax. The letter contained a New York Times editorial defending its articles that exposed the Bush administration’s secret spying operations. The editorial had an “X” slashed through it. Thankfully, the Department of Environmental Protections has since determined it was not anthrax, just powder.

The incident likely strikes fear in the Newspaper of Record, which has faced harsh criticism over the last couple of weeks and months. The ridiculousness of the episode is quite clear: An America-can-never-do-wrong “patriot”, pissed about the newspaper allegedly ‘helping terrorists’, decides the best way to handle the situation is to become a terrorist. Insane.

Those who are so quick to jump on The New York Times and other media outlets for publishing stories on domestic spying need to wake up. A well-informed public is an absolutely essential part of democracy. An educated public cannot exist if people in power are able to side-step laws and perform illegal actions in a veil of secrecy.

Those that argue “these are different times” need to realize this argument is used every time there is a conflict in the United States. While Japanese-Americans were being shoved into internment camps, it was justified by saying “these are different times”. When our troops were being sent to fight a distant war in Vietnam, it was because “these are different times”. And when we launched a preemptive war in Iraq… you guessed it… it was because “these are different times.” Enough with this argument… it cannot be used to infringe on our civil liberties or the freedom of the press.

Thank you New York Times and other media outlets for participating in the checks and balances system that makes our country so great.