In the November 18 edition of the Washington Post, staff writer Wil Haygood wrote a lengthy profile of Bishop Harry Jackson’s opposition to gay rights and to the current bill being considered by the Washington D.C. council that would extend marriage protections to same-sex couples.
GLAAD encourages media outlets to live up to the standards of fair and balanced reporting. Haygood’s article was neither. The bitter impact of Jackson’s work is trivialized by the opening line, “This is how Bishop Jackson spent his summer vacation.” The article positions Jackson as a crusader against marriage and is not at all against gay people.
Yet, it was not long ago that Jackson spearheaded the “Muzzling the Pulpit” campaign against basic legal protections for LGBT people. In the Post article he calls marriage for gay and lesbian couples, an ”oxymoron.” And, denying that he blames gay people for society’s problems or that he is homophobic, he says, “I'm looking at the extinction of marriage. And black culture is in a free fall.”
The story lacked any voices from pro-gay African-American clergy and African-American gay and lesbians. In the D.C. area alone, there are a number of African-Americans that could have been tapped: Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition; Aisha Mills, a black lesbian who testified at the D.C. hearings on marriage; The Maryland Black Family Alliance and the group, Clergy United for Marriage Equality, founded by Black clergy which now has 200 members listed on its website.
Although the article mentioned that Bishop Jackson has critics, the author only mentioned hate notes and body guards during worship services, implying that Jackson’s critics are violent extremists. Where were the credible critics who can speak to the harm done to loving couples, to gay young people and parents of gay people who go to church and are afraid to tell the truth because they are told they or their loved ones are rejected by God?
In addition, the lack of diverse voices in such a lengthy piece, reinforces the false notion that the African-American community and Black churches share Jackson’s anti-gay views. It plays on the belief that only white people are for gay and transgender equality and sets up the black community to be scapegoated when pro-LGBT legislation does not pass.
Haywood also showed his own bias when he used the term “alternative lifestyle.” Both the Associated Press and The New York Times have set guidelines against using that phrase because it denigrates the LGBT community and suggest that sexual orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be cured.
GLAAD has reached out to Haywood to discuss our issues with his story.
We urge you to write Wil Haygood at firstname.lastname@example.org to air your opinions about his piece. And now is the time. Hours after Haywood’s story was published, it was announced that Jackson filed suit against the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics over its refusal to allow an initiative to ban same-sex marriage. The board ruled that doing such would violate the city's 1977 Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination.
Jackson’s lawsuit comes one week after D.C.’s City Council voted in favor of a bill that would allow for gay and lesbian couples to be legally married. A final vote is set to take place on December 1.