Framing the issue

frameThis week the California State Supreme Court revealed its decision regarding Proposition 8, the ballot initiative limiting marriage to a union of one man and one woman. Californians had passed the initiative and opponents had filed suit against it. The court arguments were televised which meant that no one was particularly surprised by the ruling, which the Washington Post's Keith Richburg writes up here:

The ruling Tuesday by California's Supreme Court upholding a ban on same-sex marriages shows that, despite a year of successes for gay activists, the road toward full marriage rights remains difficult -- particularly when voters are given a direct say.

The decisions in three states this year to legalize same-sex marriage, and the possibility that three others will soon follow suit, created a sense that the issue was gaining irreversible momentum and widespread acceptance, with many advocates making comparisons to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But the California ruling served as a reminder that same-sex marriage remains deeply polarizing, and the movement is likely to see more reversals and setbacks as it tries to expand beyond the favorable terrain of the Northeast.

Of all the interesting things about the way the mainstream media portray the debate over same-sex marriage, the above paragraphs demonstrate the importance of framing.

For instance, it's true that in the last few months, three states have legalized same-sex marriage and others may soon follow suit. But it's also true that in the last few months three states passed initiatives outlawing same-sex marriage and that they joined 30 others who had already done so.

Or what is this language about 'creating a sense that gay marriage was inevitable.' That's only true because the media have been creating that sense. When a beauty pageant contestant is in the middle of a media firestorm for articulating a view of marriage and marriage policy shared by a majority of Americans including President Barack Obama; when articulating the view that marriage should be defined as it always has been -- no matter what its variances -- as a heterosexual institution is grounds for public shaming by the cultural elite; when the many victories of traditional marriage proponents are simply ignored . . .

The article goes on using the framework of how the Supreme Court ruling affects proponents of same-sex marriage -- and not how it affects the majority of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. It's just an interesting choice, particularly on the same day that this Gallup Poll came out showing that the media-promulgated view of the inevitability of same-sex marriage might just be a fabrication of the media. From the Washington Post's web site and written up by Chris Cillizza:

On the heels of a decision by California's Supreme Court to uphold a ban on gay marriage in the Golden State comes polling data from USA Today/Gallup that contradicts the conventional wisdom that a majority of the American public is moving closer to acceptance of same-sex unions.

Asked whether "marriages between same-sex couples" should or shouldn't be "recognized by the law as valid", 40 percent of the sample said those unions should be valid while 57 percent said they should not.

Those number are essentially unchanged from a May 2008 Gallup survey but less optimistic for proponents of gay marriage than a May 2007 poll in which 46 percent said same sex marriages should be valid while 53 percent said they should not.

The USA Today/Gallup survey also asked whether "allowing two people of the same sex to marry" would change change society for the better, the worse or have no effect. Thirteen percent said it would make things better, 48 percent said it would make things worse and 36 percent said allowing gay people to marry would have no effect on society.

It's fascinating that the plurality of Americans who reported in this poll that same-sex marriage would make things worse for society -- and the majorities who routinely vote to define marriage as a heterosexual institution -- aren't given a voice in the media. They consistently express their views and yet are routinely derided by, marginalized in or ignored by the media. Why?

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