The most widely circulated papers in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington struggled to hold anti-gay groups accountable while reporting on their respective marriage equality battles, according to a new report from Equality Matters.
Though all four of the states’ leading papers endorsed marriage equality in the weeks before Election Day, they all committed the same mistakes that plague mainstream media coverage of marriage equality debates.
Failing To Identify Anti-Gay Sources
By far, the most obvious deficiency in mainstream coverage of marriage equality battles has been the failure to accurately expose voters to the animus and hostility that motivates anti-gay groups.
The groups fighting against marriage equality in all four states each had long, extensive histories of extreme anti-gay rhetoric long before they began their 2012 campaigns:
Minnesota for Marriage was tied to groups that linked homosexuality to pedophilia
Protect Marriage Maine Chair Bob Emrich endorsed “ex-gay” therapy and praised Uganda’s “Kill the Gays Bill”
Preserve Marriage Washington teamed up with activists who warned homosexuality “will kill you”
Maryland Marriage Alliance engaged in race-baiting and allied with a pastor who said gays are “worthy of death”
All four groups toned down their anti-gay rhetoric once they began their public campaigns against marriage equality and instead and began trying to appeal to moderate voters. One Minnesota newspaper, for example, noted the “low-key” ads being run by opponents of marriage equality.
And in all four states, they largely got away with it.