Skewed Perception: Religious Voices on President Obama and Marriage Equality

In a historic move, on May 9, President Barack Obama announced his support for full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. In an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, President Obama stated that his decision to publically support marriage equality is rooted in his faith. In the days immediately following President Barack Obama’s statement in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, news media outlets scrambled to address the president’s use of religious language in explaining how his “evolution” concluded with him choosing to support marriage equality. What we found was stark, but unsurprising.

In a historic move, on May 9, President Barack Obama announced his support for full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. In an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, President Obama stated that his decision to publically support marriage equality is rooted in his faith. In his historic announcement, he stated:

[In] the end the values that I care most deeply about and [Michelle] cares most deeply about is how we treat other people […] [We] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I'll be as president.

In the days immediately following President Barack Obama’s statement in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, news media outlets scrambled to address the president’s use of religious language in explaining how his “evolution” concluded with him choosing to support marriage equality. Using our previous publication, ‘Missing Voices,’ as a guide, GLAAD looked at written and television coverage in the five days immediately following President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality. What we found was stark, but unsurprising. This skewed perception of how marriage equality is perceived within faith communities, particularly minority people of faith, will almost certainly color the continuing conversation between now and the election in November.

Read the full report.

FINDINGS

Overall, the religious spokespeople used in both written articles and television segments do not reflect the American people’s views on marriage equality.

Although white spokespeople are shown as being split evenly in terms of support for marriage equality, African American and Latino spokespeople are presented as being highly unsupportive, when they are, in fact, more supportive than the white population.Media outlets spoke overwhelmingly to straight male Christian clergy.

These voices came disproportionately from the Baptist tradition. (It is worth noting that the Obamas are not Baptist, but that the African American community is closely associated with the denomination.)

Very few voices came from women, members of the LGBT community, or non-Christian people of faith.

While all segments and articles spoke to African Americans and almost all spoke to white people, very few Latino voices were used, and other groups were absent entirely.

The top four anti-LGBT activists were quoted double the number of times that the top four pro-LGBT voices were quoted.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

The media must find and make more consistent use of LGBT religious voices.

The LGBT movement needs consistent LGBT national religious spokespeople.

The media needs to highlight the growing number of LGBT-supportive African-American and Latino clergy.

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On a recent flight from New York to GLAAD’s office in Los Angeles, I had a poignant experience with the woman sitting next to me. After the initial pleasantries we began the standard small talk about family, why we were traveling to LA and what we did for work. I reflected a bit, and thought about how best to describe what it is we “do” at GLAAD.

The Amplifier - February 2010 - Alliance Circle

A Note from GLAAD President Jarrett T. Barrios

On a recent flight from New York to GLAAD’s office in Los Angeles, I had a poignant experience with the woman sitting next to me. After the initial pleasantries we began the standard small talk about family, why we were traveling to LA and what we did for work. I reflected a bit, and thought about how best to describe what it is we “do” at GLAAD.

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The Talking About series was co-authored by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), in partnership with a board of contributing editors from the Human Rights Campaign, Lake Research Partners, PFLAG's Straight for Equality project, Arizona Together, researcher Margaret Conway, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN, on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell section).

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