Sue them: First Amendment news ghost?

450px-gay_is_the_new_black We normally focus on covering news in our posts, rather than commentary about news. After all, everyone's entitled to their opinion.

But occasionally, as Tmatt pointed out, a commentary surfaces that makes you ask -- how come we haven't see more about that subject in news coverage?

Such is the case with a recent column by Boston Globe writer Jeff Jacoby.

In a short but intriguing opinion piece, Jacoby looks back at some recent lawsuits where the allegation was anti-gay discrimination and asks: why weren't the First Amendment religious freedom rights of those accused a bigger story?

Same-sex marriage made plenty of news in 2008, from court decisions legalizing it to the adoption of amendments banning it to the ongoing battle over Proposition 8 in the one state -- California -- where both occurred.

But one front in the marriage wars rarely gets the coverage it deserves: the drive by gay activists to punish religious believers whose faith forbids homosexual relationships.

OK, this is a provocative sentence propelled by a few choice words (drive, punish, faith, forbids). That's another reason it's usually good to avoid critiquing commentary.

But in this case there is evidence (see this commentary by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times) that after Proposition 8 passed prominent community members who gave it financial support were targeted (you could use the word punished) by protesters.

Some of these stories were covered in the mainstream press -- some were not.

Let's take a look at one of the cases cited by Jacoby.

In April, photographers Jon and Elaine Huguenin were fined $6,637 by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission for declining to shoot a lesbian commitment ceremony. The Huguenins didn't want to take a job that would have required them to disregard their Christian values. But the commission ruled that in turning down the work, they had illegally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

This story was covered by the Associated Press, ( and theWashington Times) got considerable play in conservative circles , including the attention of the Alliance Defense Fund.

The Marcia Walden case cited by Jacoby was covered in detail by the Washington Times and in the blogosphere. As far as I can tell, it didn't get a lot of mainstream attention, like the suit against Neil Clark Warren and eHarmony (which settled a suit against it by agreeing to start a matchmaking service for gays and lesbians.)

Jacoby concludes his commentary by arguing:

For many gay marriage supporters, it is not enough that same-sex relationships be normalized: Any private reluctance to embrace that normalization must also be penalized. Freedom of religion is the first of our liberties, the guarantee that opens the First Amendment. But religious liberty is under assault by gay activists, and the First Amendment is getting battered. It ought to be a bigger story.

Rhetoric aside (yeah, yeah, yeah) -- does the man have a point?

As usual, it depends to some extent on your point of view.

But when it comes to covering these lawsuits by the mainstream press as a First Amendment story, I'd have to agree with Mr. Jacoby. And I'm sure that 2009 will give journalists plenty of opportunities to write that story.

Protester picture is taken from Wikimedia Commons

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