Colorado same-sex wedding cake wars: Coverage ranges from 'too hot' to 'too cold' to 'just right'

First off, my apologies to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I hate to insert them into Colorado's same-sex wedding cake wars. 

However, their involvement seems appropriate in this case, as I critique media coverage this week that ranges from "too hot" to "too cold" to "just right."

If you're not familiar with the cake wars, sample these past posts before indulging in this latest one:

Let's start with an Associated Press story headlined "The growing conflict between religious groups and gay rights advocates":

DENVER — The growing conflict between religious groups and gay-rights advocates over punishments in discrimination cases is playing out in Colorado, with a Democrat-led committing (sic) rejecting Republican proposals aimed at protecting individuals and organizations from complaints.
But what some conservatives view as trying to preserve religious freedom, Democrats and gay-rights advocates see as potentially sanctioning discrimination.
One proposal would have prohibited penalties in discrimination cases if the punishment — such as an order to serve gay couples — violated the beliefs of the accused. Another measure, written broadly, barred government officials from constraining the exercise of religion.

Later in the story, AP provides some important background on Colorado's cake wars:

The bills heard Monday afternoon come as two Colorado bakers face discrimination complaints, but from two different perspectives.
One suburban Denver baker is embroiled in a legal fight over a judge’s order that he serve gay couples after he refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker, Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has argued that providing that service would violate his Christian beliefs.
In another case, a Colorado man filed complaints against three bakeries that refused to make a Bible-themed cake with religious scripture. One of the bakers, Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver’s Azucar Bakery, said she refused to make the cake because she considered the Bible scripture and images the man wanted to be hateful toward gays. Those cases are being reviewed by Colorado’s Civil Rights Division.
The man who filed the complaints against the three bakers, Bill Jack of Castle Rock, said in written testimony read to lawmakers that Colorado’s current anti-discrimination law “abridges the right of free speech and artistic expression of all bakers, florists, photographers, and other business owners who are compelled to participate in activities that their creed instructs them violates their sincerely held beliefs and consciences.”

The AP report isn't terrible. It attempts — it seems to me — to present both sides in a fair manner.

But here's why I'd characterize the AP story as "too hot": It focuses on the controversy, but the wording and details impress me as too imprecise.

Terms such as "punishments," "discrimination" and "complaints" are used in the lede. However, I'm not sure the story adequately explains what those words mean in this context.

AP seems to boil down the proposals to such broad, general statements that the specific meaning may be lost. (I do feel for the reporter trying to put together such a complicated story on deadline and fit it within AP's word count restrictions.)

The Denver Post, on the other hand, produced an eight-paragraph story headlined "Legislative committee kills 2 discrimination bills opposed by gays." There's not a lot of meat — or cake — to the Post story.

Granted, a newspaper can't provide in-depth coverage of every issue that goes before a committee. Still, go ahead and file the Post report under the heading of "too cold."

But if you really want to understand what was proposed — and the arguments for and against it — check out the Colorado Springs Gazette's coverage:

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt failed Monday to create exemptions in Colorado's anti-discrimination law in cases of speech, artistic or religious expression.
The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed House Bill 1161 on Monday in a bipartisan 9-2 vote.
A Colorado Springs Republican, Klingenschmitt said he brought forward HB1161 to protect "the pro-gay baker's right to not print hateful speech that is being compelled by the government."
He referenced cases before the Colorado Civil Rights Division where a man filed complaints against three bakers for refusing to make a Bible-shaped cake with the words "Homosexuality is a detestable sin" and "God hates sin" quoted from Bible verses.
Klingenschmitt said his bill would prevent the government from compelling bakers to write words on cakes in violation of their beliefs.
Attorney Jack Robinson with Spies, Powers and Robinson, who is representing Le Bakery Sensual against one of the complaints, said he found it offensive that Klingenschmitt was using his client's case to promote legislation that misconstrues the issue.
"It's outrageous," Robinson said, adding that he refused Klingenschmitt's request that he testify in favor of the bill. "I think he knows exactly what he's doing, and it's sort of deliberately manipulative."
Klingenschmitt opened testimony by saying he asked all three bakers to come testify on the bill, but they said "we're afraid. We don't want to contradict our statements to DORA (the Department of Regulatory Agencies)."
Robinson said he refused to testify because Klingenschmitt's bill has nothing to do with his client's case.
"The reason why my client, Le Bakery Sensual, refused to make this cake is purely based on hate speech. It didn't have anything to do with religion," Robinson told The Gazette.

Keep reading, and the Gazette provides more important background and quotes a Baptist pastor who supported Klingenschmitt's bill and an ACLU official who opposed it and the other proposal considered by the committee.

All in all, the Gazette's report qualifies as "just right."

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