When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the state's marriage equality bill into law on June 24, it was understood that the law would take effect on July 24. What wasn't clear was whether city clerks' offices around the state would actually open up that day (a Sunday) to let gay and lesbian couples get married. Now we've gotten word that in New York City at least, those offices will be open, and couples who wish to get married that day will be able to do so. As we get closer to the day when New York has its first loving and committed gay and lesbian couples who were legally married within the state, GLAAD will continue working to tell the stories of those couples, and why marriage matters to them and to their communities. But there's another opportunity here - not just to continue telling the stories of gay and lesbian couples and their families, friends and communities - but for the media to get right some of the things it didn't exactly hit the right note on the first time around. When the marriage equality bill passed, it made sense that the media sought out the voices of opponents. But a funny thing happened in the way the story got framed. Most of the loudest voices speaking out against marriage equality identified themselves as people of faith. But so did many of the loudest supporters of the measure - and this wasn't always made clear by reporters covering the issue. Because most of the opponents were claiming that their faith was a primary reason for their opposition to marriage equality, the issue came across in the media as one that pitted LGBT advocates and allies against people of faith in general - which is simply not true. Many stories, like this one from the Associated Press, did a good job of clarifying that opponents of marriage equality were not representative of the entire faith community.
Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox rabbis and other conservative religious leaders fought the measure. (Emphasis added)But many others failed to make this distinction - and a person reading those articles may have felt that someone who supports marriage equality couldn't also be a person with a strong faith background. Another place where some of the coverage fell flat (and some of it shined, especially in the run-up to the Senate's historic vote) was in the way the claims of those opponents were treated. This Bloomberg piece, for example, quotes Massachusetts anti-gay activist Brian Camenker.
The law’s economic benefits may be overstated by same-sex marriage advocates, said Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance, an advocacy group in Waltham, Massachusetts, where such unions have been legal since 2003. While there haven’t been that many weddings, an influx of same-sex couples has increased the state’s costs to provide health care to indigents and aid in domestic-abuse cases, he said.What Bloomberg failed to do, was ask Camenker to back up that claim with facts. Our post celebrating the passage of the marriage equality bill highlighted several examples of the media doing an excellent job of challenging the claims of anti-gay activists before the bill passed. Though marriage equality is now the law in New York, it doesn't mean the media should stop asking tough questions and delivering the solid journalism their audience deserves. While there was lots of buzz around the Senate vote, up until that Friday afternoon there were still many questions as to when it was happening (if at all). Until the amendment vote immediately preceding it, it was still pretty unclear what exactly the outcome would be. So as good as most of the reporting around the vote was, we understand that some of the early reporting may have been a bit rushed, and there were perhaps some logistical reasons for the few flaws that we saw. But for the next phase of this process, there are no questions. We know that on July 24, gay and lesbian couples in New York will have access to the protections of marriage. There is plenty of time for the media to get this story absolutely right, and we hope that they do.