Monday, November 10, 2008

Lousy Coverage - Whether you like it or not!!!!

The build-up to the vote on Proposition 8, the California initiative designed to limit marriage to a man and a woman, gave readers another reason to divorce newspapers. From the start, the debate was limited to same sex marriages or mixed marriages between a man and a woman. The stage was set when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom defied state law and performed the marriage of two people of the same gender. Count 'em - two, as in a traditional marriage. All that was needed to enlarge the debate was for a reporter to ask if he would officiate at the marriage of any consenting adults, which would include plural marriages. I saw one TV reporter ask this and Newsom replied with something akin to "I heard it all. Even about marrying your horse." Those who back his stand often answer that "the issues are separate." Not when the subject is "marriage equality."
Newsom's flip remark came despite the fact that America almost went to war over polygamy and the Mormon church had to change its teaching before Utah was allowed to enter the Union. The book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," estimated that thousands of couples still live in such non-traditional arrangements. The book also said polygamists hoped to link up with homosexuals in a campaign for legality. Fat chance of that unless reporters did their job. Not only was there the Mormon factor, an increasing number of immigrants came from nations that practiced plural marriages. All his reminded me of Animal Farm, the book in which all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
Later, news stories cited the 1948 case that got rid of a law banning marriages between races. Almost all reports danced around the fact that the case involved freedom of religion. The couple wanted to wed in the Catholic Church but the law prevented this. If anything, the ruling was closer to polygamy than gay marriages. The law banned marriage between races. There is also a law against polygamy. There is no law against gays marrying. Newsom attempted to change a law, not get rid of it.
Are there lessons to be learned? Many. First, while papers were silent, the Net had a lot of talk about this, meaning dissenters no longer have to feel powerless and isolated. That said, it also demonstrates that the slope doesn't become slippery until the media greases it. It also provides more evidence that the government no longer takes action because it has a compelling interest, but because it is compelled to show interest.