This was the headline on a Wall Street Journal story this week:
Some Businesses Balk at Gay Weddings
And the subhead:
Photographers, Bakers Face Legal Challenges After Rejecting Jobs on Religious Grounds
At this point, the Journal arrives at a critical juncture: the lede.
The opening sentences will give a pretty clear idea where this story is headed: Will it be a sympathetic portrayal of gay couples denied basic civil rights? Or will it be a compassionate accounting of businesspeople forced to compromise sincerely held religious beliefs?
Let’s find out:
As more states permit gay couples to marry or form civil unions, wedding professionals in at least six states have run headlong into state antidiscrimination laws after refusing for religious reasons to bake cakes, arrange flowers or perform other services for same-sex couples.
The issue gained attention in August, when the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that an Albuquerque photography business violated state antidiscrimination laws after its owners declined to snap photos of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.
Similar cases are pending in Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington, and some experts think the underlying legal question — whether free-speech and religious rights should allow exceptions to state antidiscrimination laws — could ultimately wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What do you think? It appears to me that the Journal decided to play the story down the middle — to report the facts and let readers draw their own conclusions. In this age of advocacy, that’s somewhat surprising, but it’s good journalism, right?
Keep reading, and the story immediately quotes national advocates on both sides of the issue — fairly framing each side’s broad arguments.
Then the story turns to specifics of the individual state cases, in each instance allowing the plaintiffs and defendants equal opportunity to comment. For example: