Increased Visibility Comes With Increased Defamation

In a moment when our right to love was upheld by the California Constitution and then dashed by a narrow vote, the LGBT community has a right -- even a responsibility -- to make our voices heard. Since Election Day, there has been a tremendous outpouring of frustration and determination from the LGBT community and allies who have united across the nation to increase our visibility and spark new national conversations about equality.  Across the country since Election Day, demonstrations occurred without mass arrests or reports of violent altercations with authorities. Straight allies, local churches, elected officials including NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Washington State senator Ed Murray and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and celebrities such as Wanda Sykes, Alec Mapa, and Pink were all on hand on November 15, 2008 to have their voices heard during nationwide protests. Instead of demanding action against supporters of Proposition 8, the speakers and demonstrators called for equality. This is why GLAAD issued a call to action in response to an advertisement that ran in the December 5, 2008 issue of the New York Times from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The full page Becket Fund advertisement makes inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims about supposed "violence and intimidation" against religious groups by "mobs" since the passage of Proposition 8. Organizers and participants did not promote hate or violence. We did promote equality, come together as a community and bring awareness to how discriminatory laws like Proposition 8 impact our lives, which sounds more like the freedom of assembly than the "mob violence" that the Becket Fund references. When GLAAD learned about the ad earlier this week, we contacted the New York Times, and after repeated back and forth, staff at the New York Times said that while they recognized GLAAD's strong concerns about publishing misleading assertions, "we do not require opinion advertisers to document them unless we believe they are potentially libelous or otherwise legally actionable." The standard should be based on the potential for a lawsuit, rather on truth examining if what is being published is accurate. While the ad will not have legal implications for the New York Times, it certainly impacts their integrity. The factual inaccuracies made by the Becket Fund in this grossly misleading ad are the latest example of anti-gay activists' use of fear and misinformation to try and strip LGBT Americans of constitutional freedoms. Just as we saw during the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, anti-gay activists are trying to reframe the debate by focusing on lies. During the campaign, it was their false claims that marriage for gay and lesbian couples would be taught in schools, and now it's labeling peaceful demonstrations as "mob violence." The publicity that Becket Fund achieved from this ad has already resulted in a resurgence of anti-gay dialogue. Most recently, singer Pat Boone compared those who oppose Proposition 8 with terrorists responsible for horrific acts of violence in Mumbai in a column for the anti-gay Web site WorldNetDaily, using an act of international tragedy to elicit homophobia, similar to how Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed gay and lesbian people for the September 11 attacks. Rather than serving as platforms for lies and inaccuracies, media outlets should be calling out anti-gay activists when they resort to defamation, lies, and rhetoric that promote homophobia. Anti-gay activists have succeeded in taking the right to marry away from loving and committed gay and lesbian couples in California, and are now looking to silence us and gain publicity to spark new waves of anti-gay rhetoric. We must not let their scare tactics work and must continue to respond to their defamation and raise the visibility of our community and our message of equality. Crossposted at The Huffington Post.