Same-sex marriage vs. religious liberty … another twist

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love is in the air. Or at least more marriage headlines are filling up my computer screen. (And perhaps this would be a good time for me to give a shoutout to my lovely bride and fellow GetReligionista, Tamie. I know she’ll love this video.)

But I digress …

Earlier this month, I highlighted — and praised — Reuters’ coverage of what it called a “new twist” in the same-sex marriage debates: proposed religious exemptions for florists, cake makers and others opposed to the practice. In a straightforward account of an Oregon proposal, the wire service presented the facts and quoted both sides.

But in perusing this week’s news, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Oregon anymore. So, let’s try Kansas.

Here’s the top of a Yahoo! News report:

Gay rights advocates are outraged over a bill — passed by Kansas lawmakers earlier this week — that would allow businesses and state government employees to deny services to same-sex couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Honk if you have any idea which direction that story is headed. Let’s just say that the phrase “so-called religious exemptions laws,” which appears later, does little to hide the writer’s point of view.

A Time magazine trend piece to which Yahoo! links is better but still a little breathless for my liking (it reads like a written version of disagreeing talking heads going back and forth on Fox or MSNBC).

But then I clicked the Yahoo! link to a Wichita Eagle story on the issue. For anyone wanting to read the actual news and understand the arguments pro and con, this is the story to read. It’s a factual news report quoting a variety of perspectives. It’s just good, old-fashioned journalism.

Religious exemption supporters such as this lawmaker gets their say:

Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Shawnee, said on the House floor that his bill prevents discrimination.

“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill,” he said. “There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”

Macheers told an anecdote about a florist in Washington who was sued for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. He said his bill would protect business owners from similar civil claims.

Readers hear, too, from those skeptical of the proposal:

Thomas Witt, spokesman, for Equality Kansas, said proponents of the bill have misrepresented it. Existing laws would protect Kansas businesses from civil lawsuits if same-sex marriage became legal tomorrow, he said.

The bill’s true purpose is to enable discrimination by government employees, Witt said.

“Every single rural county in this state has same-sex couples. Government officials in those counties are going to be able to turn them away from services that they deserve as taxpayers,” he said.

Even better, the Eagle goes below the surface and quotes — or is it doesn’t quote? — certain politicians trying their best to avoid taking a position on the hot-button issue.

Reading the Wichita newspaper story, you get the feeling its journalists grasp the concept of nuance. Good for them.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Tamie Dillard Ross

    Crazy man, I love you in spite of yourself. (It’s like being married to Nicholas Sparks when you’re more of a Jane Austen.)

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      I do enjoy Nicholas Sparks!

  • robert chacon

    Yes, the local papers outside of big NY, LA , Chicago, SF Metro areas and the national outlets generally do a much better job of professional journalism. The Times, Trib, Chronicle etc. are so tainted by the liberal color of their reporting glasses they cant help themselves from slanting a story.

  • Stephen Abbott

    Why don’t reporters GET that the way to honor their profession is to obtain, and report accurately, BOTH (or ALL) sides of a story, and avoid using words (“so-called”) that inflame or betray a personal bias?

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      Good question. Maybe they’re trying to keep GetReligion in business? :-)


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