More gay-marriage cheerleading

gaymarrIn the spring, I encouraged reporters to write about the California Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage from the viewpoint of religious traditionalists and not just religious liberals and seculars. So I was happy to come across a recent story in The Los Angeles Times with the headline of “California churches plan a big push against same-sex marriage.” Finally, I thought, on this issue reporters were getting traditional religion.

I was wrong.

Reporter Jessica Garrison quoted from religious leaders who have taken a public position on Proposition 8, the November ballot initiative that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Of the seven sources quoted, three support the ballot measure, while four oppose it. And this was a story about religious supporters of the ban. Not only was the headline misleading, but the two sides were not presented fairly. As Mollie noted, the LAT did this back in May.

Religious traditionalists were quoted in the story defending their position. Well, one was anyway. Here was his quote:

“This is a rising up over a 5,000-year-old institution that is being hammered right now,” said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, an evangelical congregation in La Mesa. Garlow said that, while he supported Proposition 22, he was not nearly as involved as this time around, when he has helped organize 3,400-person conference calls across denominations to coordinate campaign support for the proposed constitutional amendment.

“What binds us together is one common obsession: . . . marriage,” Garlow said.

He added that many people of faith, regardless of their religion, believe that “if Proposition 8 fails, there is an inevitable loss of religious freedom.”

Three sentences — that was the extent of Garrison’s account for why religious traditionalist leaders seek to ban homosexual marriage. And none of the sentences elaborated as to why Garrison believes the measure’s defeat would result in “an inevitable loss of religious freedom.” Now maybe leaders of the ballot measure can’t string a few sentences together. But given that its leaders include bishops and well-known pastors, I doubt it.

By contrast, Garrison quotes not one, not two, but three religious opponents of the ban. Their quotes are interesting and help explain their position. One was an Episcopal priest, another was a rabbi, and another was a liberal mainline church with a special outreach to homosexuals.

All I am asking is for reporters to give religious traditionalists a fair hearing. Yet except for a Modesto Bee story I quoted from in June, reporters have not given them one.

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  • http://perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com/ Perpetua

    The reporter got some of his quotes for opposition to Prop 8 from the video referred to in this paragraph:

    To demonstrate that there is significant clergy support for same-sex marriage, the group California Faith for Equality has produced a video of priests, reverends and rabbis talking about why they support gay marriage.

    Maybe the supporters of Prop 8 should use some of there war chest to create something the media can use as well?

  • Mark Windsor

    It seems that in USA, like here in England, most people forget that there are two types of marriage – religious and civil. From what I understand, the courts in California rulled that same-sex couples should be able to commit their relationship in a civil marriage – and there is no legal requirement for any church to perform marriages of same-sex couples. This is exactly the same as in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

  • http://www.draknet.com/proteus Judy Harrow

    Thank you, Mark. I also need to point out, for the umpteenth time, that freedom of religion means the freedom to practice your own religion — not the freedom to impose your beliefs on those who do not share them.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    True, Judy.

    That would include the ability of churches to advocate traditional Christian views against sex outside of marriage.

    Perhaps what we are seeing is the need for “marriage” to be a strictly religious word, while “unions” becomes the legal term for use in the public square. That is something that would be opposed by many activists on the right as well as the left.

    I thought that this was what Obama advocated in the past. Now I cannot tell.

  • Jerry

    Mark,
    Even a gay media outlet presented the pro-proposition 8 side straightforwardly albeit without any theology:

    Mormons, Jews, Sikhs and Hindu’s are being asked to join forces to support an amendment to the state Constitution of California banning same-sex marriages.

    An interfaith alliance hopes to place one million signs in front gardens across the state late next month in support of Proposition 8.

    Also, the AP story was better.

  • http://www.draknet.com/proteus Judy Harrow

    Tmatt, I join you in supporting the right of any church or religious organization to teach and advocate anything they choose to their own members in their own space and in their own time. If they want to tell their people not to eat pork, or to wear only red and orange hues, or to have sex only under specific circumstances, that is their right. I would be right there to protest and resist any attempt to stop them!

    And I do believe the answer to this particular problem is to radically separate civil and religious marriage.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Please, not comments advocating donations and other activity on either side of this political issue.

    We will strike those post haste.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mark Stricherz

    Judy Harrow writes,

    I also need to point out, for the umpteenth time, that freedom of religion means the freedom to practice your own religion — not the freedom to impose your beliefs on those who do not share them.

    I don’t see how this point relates my post. If you can find a story in which the arguments of religious liberals or seculars have been slighted, please send it my way.

  • http://www.draknet.com/proteus Judy Harrow

    Hi, Mark,

    Sorry I did not make the relationship of my comment to your post more explicit. Here goes -

    you wrote

    “And none of the sentences elaborated as to why Garrison believes the measure’s defeat would result in “an inevitable loss of religious freedom.”

    I was suggesting that perhaps thie claim was not elaborated upon because it is ridiculous. Freedom of religion does not ahd should not include the freedom to impose one’s religious beliefs on non-believers in a pluralistic society.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mark Stricherz

    Hi Judy,

    Thanks for responding. Yes, Garrison might believe what you say. But he might not. We don’t know. If only the reporter had followed up or her editor kept his reply in full.

  • Brian L

    Judy,

    Please do not force your beliefs that civil and religious marriage should be radically separate upon those who disagree with you in a pluralistic society.

    There are a significant number of people (a majority by some counts) in America who think there are good reasons to keep the traditional understanding of marriage. Their views should be fairly covered in the press.

  • http://www.draknet.com/proteus Judy Harrow

    Brian

    I’m not forcing my beliefs on anybody, and I never would. If people want to marry one woman to one man, that is their choice and perfectly fine with me. I just don’t want them forcing their beliefs or preferences on others.

  • John D

    The first thing that caught my attention was the contention that the California Supreme Court decided “to redefine marriage.” I thought the Supreme Court expanded the application of marriage to same-sex couples, as it was public policy of the state not to discriminate against gay people. I also thought the point of this blog was to point out the media’s stumbles in reporting religious issues, not to demand that the press follow a specific orthodoxy.

    After all, one aspect of the argument over same-sex marriage is that many of its proponents (myself included) claim that it isn’t a religious issue at all. A marriage can be obtained in all parts of the country by appearing before a government office, filling out a form, and paying a fee.

    There’s as much required religious ceremony as there is for making an addition to ones home.

    If it is a religious issue, it’s a strange one, since we get to vote on it. I suppose there are religious groups out there who decide thing by a plebiscite, but do they include people not of their denomination? For that matter, should Prop 8 fail, I doubt it will inspire those denominations opposed to same-sex marriage to start blessing the weddings of same-sex couples.

    Sure, there are people who hold strong opinions on this issue but I’m still not sure that makes this a religious issue.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mark Stricherz

    Message to Brian L., Judy, and John D: Stick, please, to the LAT’s coverage of the issue, not the issue itself. Your future replies in the old vein will be deleted.

  • Jay

    Mark,

    A relatively fair story about opponents appeared down the Bayshore in the Mercury-News. The front page article last week (http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10283774) was a man-bites-dog story, about how the oppressed Latino brothers and sisters are not showing solidarity with their oppressed LGBT sisters and brothers.

    Other than the implicit subtext — any normal member of the Democrat coalition should be against Proposition 8 — it played it relatively straight. A Latino college student was quoted as saying:

    “I think it’s because everyone is so culturally Catholic who is Latino,” he said. “I think that’s one thing that kind of permeates every Latino society.”

  • gfe

    I’m not sure that the LAT story is as overall unfair as you (Mark) make it out to be, but there is one part that concerns me. That is that one side is allowed to set up a straw-man argument that isn’t responded to.

    Proponents of the measure have raised concerns about religious freedom, and those concerns remain unspecified in the story. Then one of the opponents dismisses concerns about religious freedom, pointing out (correctly) that the Catholic Church isn’t required to recognize state-sanctioned divorces.

    The problem is that the opponents (or at least the knowledgeable ones) aren’t arguing that the law will require churches to perform same-sex marriages. So the argument here is somewhat specious.

    What is absent from this article, then, is a clear statement of what the religious-freedom concerns are. They don’t have anything to do with being required to marry gay couples (churches have always been able to marry whom they pleased). The concerns involve tax exemptions, the application of accommodations laws to facilities rentals, the prospect of accreditation for church-sponsored education institutions, application to church-owned housing (such as at colleges) and so on.

    Maybe those concerns about religious freedom are valid, and maybe they aren’t, I honestly don’t know. But to suggest that the only concern is that the state would require churches to marry same-sex couples, which would clearly be unconstitutional, does a disservice to one side of the issue and, in effect, misstates the position that that side is taking.

  • Brian L

    After quoting one person (Garlow) from the “most ambitious interfaith political organizing efforts ever attempted in the state” who says the main issue is the preservation of a millennia-old cultural institution, Garrison adds that Garlow added a comment about a “loss of religious freedom.” Mark pointed out the problems with leaving this claim hanging. There also is no context to determine if this is the main objection of the sign-planting coalition or what. But Garrison treats it that way.

    Here are the quotes from the pro-”gay-marriage” side:

    Susan Russell, a priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena:

    “I’ll resist to my last breath, vote, e-mail and blog their right to inflict their religious beliefs on the Constitution of the state of California.”

    Rev. Neil Thomas, a minister at Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles:

    “I absolutely think that Jesus would support the freedom to marry, and because of that, as a follower of Jesus, it is absolutely incumbent upon me to support the freedom to marry as well.”

    Rabbi Zach Shapiro of Temple Akiba in Culver City:

    “My faith supports the freedom to marry because, as a Jew, I have a responsibility to fight for what is right . . . and to help bring goodness into the world.”

    Ignoring the primary source’s explanation, Garrison casts the conflict as one over “religious freedom.”

    A conflict in which defenders of humanity’s historic consensus are “inflict[ing] their religious beliefs”, while liberals are merely supporting laws in the name of Jesus and bringing Jewish-faith-based goodness into the world.

    Garrison not only redefined conservatives’ motivations, she chose to highlight reactions to the redefinition without questioning the religious liberals’ hypocrisy evident in their statements.

    At its worst, this is simply advocacy. In its most favorable light, it is an egregious example of the failure to get religion.

  • Stephen

    You seem to be implying in this piece that there exist solid, rational reasons to favor Prop 8, or conversely, to oppose same-sex marriage. Why bemoan the fact that no good arguments are presented unless you accept the proposition that there are good arguments for Prop 8?

    Three sentences — that was the extent of Garrison’s account for why religious traditionalist leaders seek to ban homosexual marriage.

    Maybe it’s because that’s all there is to say about it—there is no better argument (or any logical argument at all). If you feel so strongly that there is more of an argument to be made, why don’t you tell us what it is? Because I’ve never seen one …

  • Brian L

    Stephen –

    Two sides can oppose one another, both for rational reasons. If the traditionalists really are irrational wackos, then journalism could happen – find representative leaders of the movement and detail their irrationality – to get the truth to their readers. Otherwise, it seems more “rational”, or at least fair, to assume that a group capable of crossing long-standing cultural and religious divisions to work on a common cause actually do have reasons for what they are doing that (at least) make sense to them.

    I don’t think Mark was asking the LAT to advocate the “good” arguments for the traditionalists. I think he was asking that their arguments actually be reported instead of being defined by their opponents. He even says so…

    All I am asking is for reporters to give religious traditionalists a fair hearing. [em mine]

  • Stephen

    Brian,

    I don’t think Mark was asking the LAT to advocate the “good” arguments for the traditionalists. I think he was asking that their arguments actually be reported instead of being defined by their opponents.

    Huh? What the heck are you talking about?

    My point was that the LAT may have not covered the arguments for Prop 8 (against same-sex marriage) because THERE AREN’T ANY! And if any of the “traditionalists” (I’d call them cultural luddites, but there ya go) actually have any arguments that aren’t absolutely laughable, I’d love to hear them! Because there aren’t any!

    So, what are these arguments that asks to “actually be reported”? It’s my contention that there aren’t any …

  • Stephen

    Brian,

    Two sides can oppose one another, both for rational reasons.

    Sure, unless they don’t. The mere existence of “two sides” doesn’t guarantee rationality. It’s my contention that there is nothing rational about opposing marriage equality.

    If the traditionalists really are irrational wackos, then journalism could happen – find representative leaders of the movement and detail their irrationality – to get the truth to their readers.

    This is exactly what’s been going on for years, at least since 2004, if not earlier. I think the journalists are just tired of repeating the old, worn out rhetoric that is so irrational and unconvincing. They are showing the truth to their readers–there is no argument here!

  • Brian L

    This is exactly what’s been going on for years, at least since 2004

    Great. I’d love to see some of that coverage. Where’d you find it?

  • Brian L

    Seriously Stephen – and to keep things focused on this post/article, you don’t have to list them all, but please do include at least one article discussing the “traditional marriage” arguments of Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus – each of whom was referenced, but not quoted, in this story.

  • Stephen

    Brian,

    Where’d you find it?
    … please do include at least one article discussing …

    Google is your friend! Did you also ask your little brother to do your homework for you? I think it’s time you learned to do your own research! Seriously …

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Stephen,

    You make the claim YOU BACK IT UP.

    If it’s all over the place, it shouldn’t be hard to find, right?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Stephen,

    I deleted your post — which went into our spam filter on account of your language and hastily thrown around links.

    Be nice. Or don’t post.

    Learn the protocol. Post a link to a story and DISCUSS why it supports your claim.

    This begins a DISCUSSION with other commenters.

    Thank you.

  • Brian L

    Stephen,

    There have been no in-depth mainstream media reports detailing the traditional marriage arguments (arguments convincing the citizens of state after state to encode the understanding into their Constitutional law) that demonstrate these arguments to be irrational. If you know of one – any one – go ahead and post it.

    The reason you have not been exposed to the arguments (to be charitable to you) is the lack of good mainstream media coverage of the marriage traditionalists in favor of the kind of cheerleading Mark “calls out” in this post.

    I have been reminded that this blog is not the place for discussion of the issue, so I won’t give you the traditionalist arguments here. However, since you are such a clever researcher – with Google and all – I’m sure you will be able to find them if you were serious about it.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I had to place Stephen in moderation on account of his personal attacks on me. Charming.

    Anyway, Stephen, if your comment remains on-topic and avoids ad hominem attacks, it will be released.

  • Dave

    Stephen:

    Though you and I are on the same side of the core issue, I have to dissent from your position that there are no rational reasons to support the proposition. GR has posted links to two excellent articles on the subject. The basic situation is not that gay marriage and religious freedom collide, but that equal treatment of gays/lesbians and religious freedom collide, and gay marriage intensifes the conflict.

    Therefore a story that purports to examine the reasons for supporting Prop 8 and fails to go into any of this, isn’t getting religion.

    (Once again I must register my dissent from the general proposition that journalistic “cheerleading” for gay marriage is failure to get religion. It’s bias, but it’s not failure to GR. In this case, however, there is a palpable failure to get religion.)

    Just to give one substantive example from the previously cited articles, Catholic Charities of Boston got out of the business of finding adoptive homes for foster children (among the hardest to place) when an anti-discrimination law forbade them from following their religious teachings in declining to place kids with gay parents. Legal gay marriage in Massachusetts closed out their one fallback position, to place kids only with married couples.

    Of the two articles, one is a 2006 Weekly Standard item by Maggie Gallagher titled “Banned in Boston: The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty.” The other is a 2008 NPR report by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, titled “Gay Rights, Religious Liberty: A Three-Act Story.”

  • John D

    It was not all that long ago when I would read articles on same-sex marriage and put the paper down in frustration, since once again an article assumed that the only possible religious view of same-sex marriage was to oppose it.

    Slowly, the media started paying attention to clergy in favor of same-sex marriage.

    It is a mistake to view “religion” as a monolith. Surely by including religious views both in support and opposition to same-sex marriage, the LA Times is attempting to achieve balance.

    Were the article to pretend that all clergy had a uniform view on same-sex marriage (as articles typically once did), then the LA Times would be guilty of cheerleading.

    The article can be summed up thusly: These clergy oppose same-sex marriage and are behind a big political push. Those clergy stand on the other side.

    Ignoring either side is failing to “get” religion.

  • John

    The story was about the effort of a coaltion of relgious groups opposed to gay marriage. It included 14 paragraphs that described their efforts.

    There are 10 paragraphs that quote or talk about the folks opposed to this coaltion. Not a word of criticism is written about the opponents until the 10th or 11th paragraph.

    Many – perhaps most readers – do not read entire stories, so a significant percentage of them could read the top half of the story and never know there is opposition to this group.

    This does not seem like a story crafted to put the coaltion supporting the proposition in a bad light.

    It seems pretty clear to me that the “argument” about religious freedom has to do with churches saying they will be forced to marry gay couples. If I were editing it, I would have cut Garlow’s last quote – as it adds little to the story. I’d also cut down the quotes on the other side and ask for more facts about the opposition.

    Quotes are often – as in this case – filler for lack of actual information. If anything, the opponents of proposition 8 come off as unorganized and spouting cliches.

    I’m not sure why this is an example of pathetic journalism.


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