Today's Washington Post’s story, “Obama decision on gay marriage divides local residents” inaccurately and unfairly portrays people of faith and African-Americans as being in opposition to LGBT equality.
The story opens by identifying two friends, being sure to identify them as African-American, and then saying, “They both believe same-sex marriage is an affront against God, a sin that simply cannot be condoned. “ The story goes on from there to lift up various religious leaders who oppose marriage equality, all speculating on whether such a position will affect the election. Even those who are cited as supporting the president politically are in opposition to LGBT equality.
By choosing to only quote from religious leaders and African-Americans who oppose marriage equality, the Post has given the false impression that the only faithful position toward LGBT equality is opposition. No voices of clergy who have been working for marriage equality in the District of Columbia or in Maryland were identified in the story.
The story did include pro-LGBT voices, but all of those voices were not identified with a religious affiliation. It’s possible that the pro-LGBT people quoted are regular worshippers somewhere, but it will never be known to the readers of the Post. In contrast, the LGBT opposition is clearly identified as being connected to a church, identified as African-American, or both.
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association also noticed the one-sided coverage and wrote its own critique.
For those of you counting, that’s six religious voices and none of them supportive of same-sex marriage. At least three of those voices are African American. Every person identified by some racial indicator in the story is opposed to same-sex marriage.
How is that possible? Did they lose the phone numbers to the National Cathedral, Foundry Methodist, various experts at Georgetown University? Did they call local ministers at churches with gay-affirming policies?
When the news of Obama’s endorsement broke, GLAAD anticipated problematic stories like this. We released an Eye on the Media that warned against this exact narrative, which portrays anti-LGBT equality as the problem of African-Americans and religious people. GLAAD even lifted up various African-American and Latino faith leaders who are standing with the president, one of whom is the pastor of a DC-based church.
Stories like this are especially troublesome, because they feed into a much larger, misleading narrative, where only anti-LGBT religious voices are being included in mainstream media coverage. Last month, GLAAD released, Missing Voices, a three-year study of mainstream media coverage of LGBT people and religion. We found that three out of four voices included in mainstream media coverage came from religions with formal policies against LGBT equality.
GLAAD calls on the Washington Post to listen to and amplify pro-LGBT voices of faith. We have reached out to the reporters directly to fix this biased coverage. We will continue to work with clergy and people of faith to tell their story and give a faithful and affirming response to advancing LGBT equality.