GLAAD Study: Media Need to Highlight LGBT-Affirming Religious Voices

Today, GLAAD released 'Missing Voices: A study of religious voices in Mainstream Media reports about LGBT equality'. The study found that that three out of every four people of faith called on to speak about LGBT issues in the media came from anti-LGBT traditions. The report was commissioned by GLAAD and conducted by the University of Missouri Center on Religion & the Professions and examines the religious voices presented in national news outlets in print and television on LGBT issues.

See the key findings here.

The research found that the media was overwhelmingly relying on the voices of those whose religions have formal policies opposing LGBT equality, despite the fact that acceptance of LGBT people is growing across all faith traditions. These voices come disproportionately from the Evangelical Christian and, to a lesser degree, Roman Catholic traditions. Most messages from these voices about LGBT people were negative.

“Today’s media has a responsibility to reflect the diversity of religious voices, rather than just those who choose not to support LGBT people,” said Ross Murray, Director of the Religion, Faith & Values Program at GLAAD. “By elevating select anti-LGBT voices who are out of touch with so many in their own churches, media is falsely representing views of entire religious groups and contributing to a climate that isolates LGBT youth and adults from their faith, a false dichotomy that no one should have to make.”

Evangelical Christians account for almost 40 percent of all the negative statements about LGBT issues made by religiously identified spokespeople. And half of the faith organizations called on by the media were Evangelical, even though only a quarter of Americans identify as such.

Spokespeople for Roman Catholic hierarchy accounted for another 12 percent of negative statements, despite the fact that lay Catholics - whom these spokespeople are used by the media to represent - are by and large supportive of the LGBT community.

Equally striking was the finding that voices from the growing number of religious groups that are affirming of LGBT people were largely missing. The mainstream media used far fewer religious sources from Mainline Protestant (17 percent), Jewish (5 percent), or other religious sources whose messages could be expected to be predominantly positive.

A majority of Americans of all religions and denominations support the LGBT community in matters like non-discrimination and hate crime protections. And support continues to grow across the country even on the issue of marriage equality. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, support for marriage equality is strongest among Jews (76 percent), and non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans (63 percent), a group that includes Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. But a majority of white Catholics (56 percent), Hispanic Catholics (53 percent), and white mainline Protestants (52 percent) also favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Media portrayals reinforce cultural biases, particularly about the relationship between religion and the LGBT community. LGBT or pro-LGBT sources are often presented without any religious affiliation, thus contributing to a false and overly sensational ‘religion vs. gay’ frame. Despite their underrepresentation, there are many examples of LGBT-affirming religious voices, some of whom identify as LGBT themselves.

Within this past week, we caught glimpses of the pro-LGBT religious movement. The ‘Gay Christian? YES!’ campaign launched in Michigan. A young Christian continues his quest to demonstrate the biblical support for equality. A Grammy and Dove-award nominated Christian singer shares her story as a Christian and a lesbian. And a youth Catholic makes the difficult choice to disassociate himself with Catholic Charities because the hierarchy cannot be charitable toward homeless LGBT youth. These are the voices that only exist on the margins and are missing from mainstream media.

GLAAD offers ‘Missing Voices’ to encourage the media to accurately represent pro-LGBT voices of faith. GLAAD will be presenting findings to national and local news rooms as part of a project to elevate messages from pro-LGBT religious voices.

Download Missing Voices: A study of religious voices in Mainstream Media reports about LGBT equality.