Same sex marriages will be performed in California beginning on Tuesday. In fact, some will take place tonight. And the media are pretty giddy about it. What's happening is very important and very historic, so the amount of coverage is proper. Less proper is the complete lack of balance in stories this past week. Take this piece -- please -- from the New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope:
For insights into healthy marriages, social scientists are looking in an unexpected place.
A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships.
The whole article is about how homosexual couples are better in seemingly every way than heterosexual couples. They divide work more fairly, they fight more fairly, they get less angry. The article is a one-sided bludgeon and it would be laughable if it weren't, you know, the New York Times. That whole notion of one man and one woman united in marriage for the purpose of procreation really seems quaint now, doesn't it?
Another New York Times story looks at several same-sex couples who got married in Massachusetts four years ago. Some have divorced, some stayed married, but the story is very positive no matter what. The Associated Press' Amanda Fehd had nothing but positive words about same-sex marriage in California. The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article about how gay people themselves feel everything from exuberance to hostility about marriage. There was a bit of that latter perspective in the Times story about Massachusetts couples. But while gay people can be opposed to same-sex marriage, other critical voices seem harder to find in mainstream media.
Instead, we have "Lawsuits in defense of gay marriage can backfire, activist groups warn." Or a really bizarre story on gaydar that cites a report from mid-century by Alfred Kinsey (of all people) that says gay men have larger penises than straight men. The San Francisco Chronicle's weekend coverage included, but was not limited to, "California weddings one more step on long road," "Lesbian pioneer activists see wish fulfilled," "Same-sex marriage plans around the Bay Area," "Saying 'I Do' all over again," "'Is this a good person to marry?'," "Gay marriage hits home with legal crusaders," and "Judge sees equal rights for gays, lesbians," etc. None of these -- except the 'gays make better married couples' and 'gay men have larger penises' stories -- are that bad. It's just that they all reinforce the same rah-rah message.
Particularly for a state that recently had over 60 percent of voters define marriage as an institution for one man and one woman, and had that vote overturned by judges, this coverage is horrific. With this unbelievably uncritical look at same-sex marriage, a column by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross about media manipulation of the event by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is particularly interesting:
When then-rookie Mayor Newsom defied state law and set off a national storm by sanctioning same-sex weddings at City Hall four years ago, his chief PR master at the time, Peter Ragone, laid down some do's and don'ts for how the story was to be staged for the media.
Make it about the people, not politics, Ragone emphasized. Make the weddings as normal-looking as possible. And whenever Newsom went in front of the cameras, Ragone made sure there was a U.S. flag in the background.
Just like four years ago, the story line Newsom and gay activists are pitching this time is about fairness and "couples next door."
Wow. And that's exactly how I'd describe every mainstream media outlet's treatment of the subject. Way to go, mainstream media! If anyone finds any coverage that does anything with this story other than what Gavin Newsom and other activists aim for, please let me know.