Minnesotans were rightfully outraged this week when anti-gay “Minnesota for Marriage” Pastoral Outreach Director Brad Brandon compared marriage equality supporters to Nazis. Brandon said:
"[Hitler] removed their voices in the public square and removed their control of their own businesses. So, he stopped Jewish people from speaking out in public and he silenced them."
Brandon has apologized for this absurdly insensitive remark, but Minnesota for Marriage stood by his statement, saying "His point was absolutely correct; he was just using a poor analogy and an incorrect choice of words."
It shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, given his history of using this kind of rhetoric.
But Brandon is far from the only active anti-gay operative to have said vile and inflammatory things about the LGBT community. He’s just one of the few who’ve been reported on as such. From the other three states where marriage is on the ballot this November:
- Bishop Harry Jackson, a central figure in the debate over marriage equality in Maryland says marriage equality is part of “a satanic plot to destroy our seed," and that the movement towards marriage equality is "just like during the times of Hitler"
- Carroll Conley of Protect Marriage Maine calls marriage equality ”insidious” and “evil” and has distributed materials that compare the marriages of same sex couples to man/horse marriage.
- Joseph Backholm from Family Policy Insitute of Washington equates marriage equality with the practice of bloodletting and has instructed his supporters that "tolerance is not something to be pursued."
It is the media’s responsibility, when reporting on these and other anti-gay activists, to provide audiences with the proper context. Voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington should be informed that those leading the charge against marriage equality are doing so because they believe it to be satanic, insidious, or comparable to bloodletting or Nazis, or any number of other outrageous and hateful statements.
GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project is a resource for journalists to familiarize themselves with what lurks behind the mainstream-friendly versions of these activists’ talking points. Audiences deserve to be told a complete story about the issues they are facing, and that is the media’s job. Minnesota media has reported widely on Pastor Brandon’s “Nazi” statement. Voters know that Minnesota for Marriage Chairman John Helmberger wants marriage equality to be constitutionally banned. But do they know why? It’s because he believes it is necessary, in order to “restrain evil.” Many Minnesotans might not agree with marriage equality, but do they believe gay people are an “evil” that needs to be “restrained?”
This type of rhetoric is obviously not going to show up in anti-gay campaign ads, because anti-gay activists would rather voters not know about the scope of their statements. But it's not the media's job to do PR for these anti-gay activists. It's their job to report the whole story. And the whole story, in this case, requires talking about this kind of language. If you see the media not giving these anti-gay activists the context they require, please let us know. And let the media outlet know as well.
GLAAD is calling on media nationwide and especially in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington to dig deeper when reporting on issues of marriage equality. Provide your audiences the context they need to make the most informed choices.