Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Went Too Far

This post is very difficult for me to write. I am a fan of the work that GLAAD does. I think the homophobic nature of many media institutions and outlets do continue to negatively perpetuate false stereotypes, and therefore unnecessarily continue the ongoing culture war between the conservative and gay worlds. I have had history with GLAAD. A few years ago when I was getting lied about, and attacked in the secular national media by a very outspoken, radical gay media figure, GLAAD helped me through the whole situation. I’ll never forget the phone call I was on with one of the directors of GLAAD who said the following:

“I apologize on behalf of the gay community, who this man attacking you is a part of. Today, I am very embarrassed for our community. He doesn’t speak for me, or for us. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is not just here to watch for hate speech against the gay community, but also for hate speech from the gay community against others. His lies against you are wrong, and we will not tolerate them and work to fix them.”

And you know what, GLAAD kept their word! They stopped this man, and because of that they stopped me from continuing to receive the hate mail, the death threats and the very negative impact from the lies being spread around. They had my back when I needed it the most. They stuck their neck out on the line for me, when by all means they shouldn’t have ever done so. I am truly humbled, and indebted to their work and boldness. Without them having my back at the most crucial point of my life to that moment, I don’t know if I could have been able to continue because the gay community was listening to what this guy was making-up. But because the most reputable source in the gay community stood up for me, it was in some way a shield that has protected me since; and fostered so many unbelievable relationships. For these reasons it is very hard for me to communicate the following message.

I know that the more conservative audience that reads this blog probably thinks that GLAAD “runs the media”. But in reality they offer advice and suggestions regarding accurate portrayals of GLBT persons when approached by networks and programming. There are also times, like the one I am going to describe, where GLAAD sees some type of injustice against the GLBT community and brings to light such issues to hold said institutions accountable.

The past few days GLAAD has been sending out a joint release with the United Church of Christ (UCC) regarding CBS’s decision to accept a Super Bowl advertisement from Focus on the Family. You can see the release here. And here is a related article from the Washington Post. The main issue GLAAD has in this situation is that in 2004 CBS denied the UCC ads that promoted a gay-inclusive church; and now in 2010 are accepting an ad from a well known conservative (anti-gay inclusion) organization such as Focus on the Family. Here are a few thoughts:

First, we live in a consumer based, free market society. By law, CBS can accept or deny any ads they want to—and also have the right to change their minds regarding the metric of what they deem as an appropriate message. As the CBS executives recently stated to the AP on why the UCC’s commercial was “unacceptable to broadcast”:

“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch [Bush Administration] has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”

I know that GLAAD does not think this debate should be held in a vacuum of 2010 vs. 2004, but as culture changes, so can advertisement messages.

Second, the Focus on the Family ad is about abortion, not the gay community or any legal policies the gay community is fighting for. If such an ad means so much to the UCC and to GLAAD, then just pay for a commercial reiterating your particular message—because as we’ve seen, the metric has changed for CBS over the years. So there should be no problem. Utilize their medium. None of this means that I agree with Focus on the Family or appreciate their lack of tact in how they handle most every situation.

The part that waves some flags for me though, is that GLAAD is infringing upon a freedom of not only the ability to communicate a message (no matter how appropriate or inappropriate anyone outside of CBS might think it is—from my perspective: see any beer commercials (although clever) or godaddy.com commercials as well), but also infringing upon the right of our consumerist culture to choose for themselves what they want to promote. Focus on the Family has every right to purchase an advertisement, just as the UCC and GLAAD. The last thing I want to see is our culture continuing down this harmful path of bullying “the other side” into aligning with one’s perspective. GLAAD might suggest that the Focus on the Family commercial is harmful and are trying to do the same thing; and that could be true. But it doesn’t mean CBS has to be mass-mobbed like they have done something wrong.

They haven’t.

And believe me, if Focus on the Family were doing this to GLAAD or the UCC, you better believe I would be communicating this exact message! Bridge building is a two-way street, and until someone is willing to step up and stop this crazy back and forth, how can culture change? It can’t. And mob-mentality force doesn’t do anything except drive warring communities further apart.

Just so you all know, I am emailing this post to my friend on GLAAD’s leadership team. I hope they, just as they have a wonderful track-record of doing, will engage me in this discussion.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    I dunno, Andrew. CBS needed to clarify their position on accepting “advocacy advertising”, given their previous history of denying the UCC on that basis, as well as their previous assertion that they DO NOT ever accept advocacy advertising. Now someone (besides the UCC who doesn’t have the cash for advertising) like HRC or another pro-gay organization needs to submit a pro-gay advocacy commercial to test CBS’ commitment to tasteful advocacy acceptance.

    Incidentally, IIRC LOGO (CBS’s gay channel) was forbidden from airing that gay positive UCC commercial. How’s that for funny?

    I have my own questions and opinions on the subject. You can read them here (http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/2010/01/has-cbs-changed-its-policy-against.html) and here (http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/2010/01/cbs-reconsiders-advocacy-advertising.html).

    One more recent thought I had after reading the above CBS quote questions why the UCC church was viewed as a pro-marriage equality/anti-Bush statement?

  • Hihopes

    I have to say, the cosmic energies must be swirling in this area.

    As a board member of a PFLAG chapter I am faced with discriminatory comments and derogatory inferences towards Christians. And while there is a lot of evidence to support their arguments and claims…… There are times I find the comments and declarations as offensive and being nothing more than discrimination.

    It is ironic to me that it is ‘offensiveness’ that drew me to joining PFLAG, in defense and support of LGBT people and yet, it is offensiveness that, ‘at-times’ causes me to question my involvement.

    And then I remember…..

    It is by the grace of God that I stand in support of LGBT people (even those I do not agree with) and it is this same grace that makes me stand for Christians (even those I do not agree with)………..

    You are hitting the nail-on-the-head. No real bridge-building work can come through a ‘this-or-that’ approach. They should seek to release the previous ad, and if they get denied in 2010……….. perhaps then, they have an appeal.

    If Focus can run an ad on Abortion (I assume, opposing the action), when abortion is a legal right; then GLAAD (& UCC) should be able to run their ad which doesn’t run-against any ‘rights’ but suggests, inclusiveness and unity .

    ……….Weird to think that if in 2010, they cannot run an ad of ‘that’ nature than that would suggest we have not grown ???…………….I would love to see what this would reveal. Now….GLAAD and UCC would have something to truly say. A ‘why that’ versus ‘why not this’?

  • http://www.thesecondguess.org Matthew

    I appreciate the work you do IMMENSELY, but I do differ here. We can weigh what’s legal & politically appropriate, but doing so truly does sidestep the real issue here: it hurts for CBS to reject an inclusive church ad and then to turn around and allow an ad from an organization that is very exclusive in its approach to LGBT people. Regardless of the subject matter of FotF’s.

    What’s politically appropriate & legal isn’t always what’s best or right.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jon – I read your links, and thank you again for the level, principled way in which you discuss this topic! And I loved watching the commercial in question, as I had never seen it before. For people interested, you can watch it here:

    http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/2010/01/has-cbs-changed-its-policy-against.html

    Hihopes – I totally agree with you. I think this things would be sqashed if the UCC petitioned to run the commercial again. However CBS answered, would sure make their intentions definitively more clear.

    Matthew – Your core principle makes total sense – what is appropriate and legal isn’t always what’s best or right! I 100% agree. I don’t think what CBS did is ‘right’ but it is legal, and that is their choice. I just don’t think, especially on the overly divisive subject matter of faith and homosexuality; GLAAD’s medium of engagement might not be the best either. In the email I sent to my leader friend at GLAAD, I offered to help them get in actual public and private discussions with FoF. I think things can be resolved much better at that point.

    Also, on my Facebook a UCC pastor commented to the situation:

    “Andrew, as a UCC minister I find this supposed outrage over this matter interesting. In regards to the UCC ad, there have been several other ads that were accepted an eventually ran. I think the UCC used the “rejection” of their ad as a way to rally their supporters. I believe they could have simply modified their controversial commercial a … See Morelittle bit and would have found the networks open to showing it. Sorry to take your post off topic. I appreciate your approach and hope you are doing well.”

  • Phil George

    Andrew, I appreciate you holding both sides accountable. I just saw on the Fox News site, that CBS is considering an ad for a gay dating service called ManCrunch during the Super Bowl. That could make things interesting.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Here’s a blog-link about the ManCrunch commercial, complete with a clip for the ad. Not really an equivalent to the bounced UCC “Bouncer” commercial or a counter-balance to the FOTF anti-abortion ad. Seems juvenile and somewhat flippant towards the people that it’s reaching out to, imho.

    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/01/cbs-considers-gay-ad-for-super-bowl.html

  • Iphimedia

    Andrew, I see your point that CBS can air anything it likes as a corporate entity and can change its policies at will, as we live in (in my opinion, woefully) consumerist, materialist, and freemarket-dominated society. Of course the network can do anything it likes with its money, however unfair. Two points however: 1) it seems a little convenient that CBS should have “changed its advocacy policy” when a nicely conservative ad such as Focus on the Family’s should be ready to be aired. If the UCC’s ad had been offered again, I wonder if CBS would have suddenly announced that it had changed its policy back so that it would not have to air and ad that perhaps its top folks disagree with. There is no way to prove this short of interviewing the heads of CBS; it’s simply speculation. 2) I take issue with your accusation that GLAAD and UCC are “infringing upon a freedom of not only the ability to communicate a message….but also infringing upon the right of our consumerist culture to choose for themselves what they want to promote.” How is putting out a press release “infringing” anyone’s rights–to the contrary, these organizations are exercising their rights to free speech, by placing their arguments out in the free marketplace of ideas and trying to persuade the public to take a certain lawful course of action. You don’t like that course of action, and you are on your blog exercising your right to free speech with counterarguments. Where is the infringement? To infringe according to dictionary.com means “to commit a breach or infraction of; violate or transgress.. to encroach or trespass.” With this press release, UCC and GLAAD are transgressing against no law and encroaching on no one’s rights. No one need take the action being urged; they are only expressing their concerns about the context and timing of the ad, and the nature of the ad’s sponsor. We live in a freemarket economy; we also, thank God, live in a freemarket place where people and the press can express any ideas they want and try to convince people to support or oppose a powerful entity like CBS and like Focus on the Family. In fact, free speech is one of the few weapons that smaller, poorer individuals and groups have against huge interest groups and profit-making networks. The nature of the action that GLAAD and UCC are urging is very simple, peaceful, honest and direct: Please contact CBS and express your concerns about the integrity of the network’s decision-making process in allowing the anti-gay Focus on the Family to advertise on the network after having unfairly denied that ability to an LGBT-inclusive church like the United Church of Christ.” What is wrong with asking someone to express concerns?
    3. As for your solution that UCC should simply take out their own ad rather than expressing their concerns in the press, that is overly simplistic. Why shouldn’t they do both? Also, perhaps that denomination, six years later, simply is not positioned financially at this time. I don’t see why they shouldn’t use the weapons they have to peacefully protest what I see as a legitimate complaint against an unjust policy.

  • A.Roddy

    Wy dont they stop al the ones who speak negative toward Christians and other religious groups? tolerance work both wayas. honestly neither ad should be aired. I dont like anyhting that tries to sway people opinions whether liberal or conservative. The man crunch comercial shouldnt eb aired as well as other racy dating commercials like text flirt.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    GLAAD’s mission statement doesn’t address Christianity. It addresses defamation towards GLBT folks and images in the media. Then again, the UCC is a Christian denomination and GLAAD was working alongside them with the press release referenced in this blog entry.

    I’m not sure what the UCC ad was trying to sway people towards. It’s an invitation to those who’ve been rejected by Christianity to try out their local UCC church.

    BTW, CBS did indeed reject the Mancrunch ad. Additionally, it’s been revealed by Gloria Allred that Tim Tebow’s mother was pregnant with him in the Phillipeans, which has had very strict anti-abortion legislation since 1930. So the idea of her being pressured by doctors to abort him due to medical reasons is somewhat in question. Also, the UCC has wisely opted to not air any of their ads during the Super Bowl, choosing instead of invest money towards earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jon – I was talking to a friend the other day about the Mancrunch ad, and they brought up an interesting point I had not thought of….

    The Super Bowl’s demographics are straight, super alpha-male type guys. Let’s say the gay community is 10% of the population, and how much of that 10% do you think cares about, or watches the Super Bowl? Therefore, would such a Mancrunch commerical be wise to accept? Then again (and thanks for the background about Tebow’s situation), does that straight alpha-male demographic care about abortion either?

    I did hear about UCC opting to use that potential money to donate to Haiti. I got a kick out of that…it’s their way of sticking it to the man that is Focus on the Family. Ironic, isn’t it?!

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Oh, 2 other things:

    Iphimedia – You make a great point! If CBS has a right to air a commercial, so does GLAAD and the UCC have a right to complain. I’m just not a big fan of the “here’s the name, address, phone number and email of the people in charge and you should pester them until they break” method. And that goes for Christian organizations who do the same thing.

    A.Roddy – Tolerance does work both ways!

  • JHing

    Seems to me that GLAAD’s mission is large enough to include issues that directly affect all women in America, lesbians included. So airing an anti-choice commercial definitely falls within this larger political goal of freedom for all. Also, the commercial is of dubious validity, since the issue of birth took place in the Phillipines, where abortion has been completely illegal. The right wing christian agenda has always been anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-right of women to choose (including the idea that giving birth should be forced on women even in instances of rape and incest). If advocacy ads were rejected from left wing groups, then they should also be rejected by right wing groups. So GLAAD’s mission is not just a single issue one.


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