Are television networks giving fair representation to gay marriage and gay rights?
A scholarly, empirically researched article in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media points out that while network television stories do discuss the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, gays and lesbians are "…rarely given the opportunity to offer their own perspectives" (Moscowitz, 2010, p. 36). The research in this article involved using 93 stories taped from network TV that represented the gay marriage issue. There were 38 stories gleaned from ABC; 29 from NBC, and 26 from CBS. The video was obtained from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive.
A total of 12,419 seconds (about 207 minutes) of total time was carefully reviewed in these 93 news stories on national television. The analysis was conducted based on three components: the news story; each source cited in the story; and "each gay or lesbian couple" (Moscowitz, p. 31). The findings show that the "debate" in the video clips "was dominated by conventionally 'straight' perspectives." And while gay and lesbian couples and gay rights activists made up "16% and 8.2% respectively," of the sources that were cited in the video reports, political figures commenting on the issue made up 27% of the time, "conservative activists" composed 13.4% of the sources, and the president (Bush) and White House spokespersons were 10% of the sources shown on the video news reports (Moscowitz, p. 36).
The president and his representatives, conservatives who are against gay marriage, political and legal analysts, religious leaders "…were allowed more time to speak in news reports on the marriage issues than were gay and lesbian citizens" (Moscowitz, p. 36). Of the gay and lesbian couples that were the focus of the 93 news stories, only "20%" were given the opportunity "to speak at all." In other words, the gays and lesbians in these news stories appeared more as "image bites" than "sound bites" and the couples that were the "dominant visual focus" of the 96 stories "contributed little to the linguistic content of the stories"(Moscowitz, p. 36). Another way of saying what the appearance of the gays and lesbians amounted to was that "they were granted the status of visual ornamentation," Moscowitz explains (p. 36).
On the marriage issue, ABC, NBC, and CBS did not "othered" or "exocticized" the couples in "stereotypical ways," the author continues. The couples were "largely seen but not heard" Moscowitz asserted, adding (p. 37) that more research needs to be conducted into exactly how "the debate is constructed across a wider array of news sources that reach different audience" (p. 37).
A populist argument in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage
Alex Rajczi, a philosophy professor from Claremont -- McKenna College has written a passionate populist piece arguing in favor of same-sex marriage in the journal the Monist. Rajczi states (p. 475) that the "basic principle of our society is that the government must offer all opportunities equally unless there is some good reason to do otherwise." An example is a driver's license -- anyone of proper age can have one "unless there is good reason to do otherwise" (Rajzci, p. 476). He goes on to assert that the government doesn't withhold opportunities "on the ground that people or their (lawful) behaviors are immoral." For example, even if the majority of people agree that sex outside of marriage is immoral -- and even if they are correct about that issue -- it would be "wrong to withhold driver's licenses from those who have had pre-marital or extra-marital sex" (Rajczi, p. 476).
What the public and the government do in fact count as a "good reason to withhold an opportunity" is when that person's "receipt of the opportunity would create an unacceptable risk of harm to others" (Rajczi, p. 477). Example: issuing a driver's license to a 13-year-old would create an unacceptable risk to pedestrians and to other drivers. Hence, the author's argument is that just because some people in society see same-sex marriage as immoral, doesn't mean that it should be banned because it does not create an "unacceptable risk of harm to others." Just because "homosexual conduct is (allegedly) immoral or because it would (allegedly) place a stamp of approval on homosexuality" is no reason to ban it.
As Rajczi has asserted, if opposite-sex marriage is allowed, then marriage between same-sex partners should be allowed as well, since allowing same-sex marriage harms no one. Society is slowing changing and the polls are showing that acceptance of gay marriage is slowing gaining ground, which is a good thing. America is supposed to be a country where civil rights are enjoyed by all people, African-American, Asian-American, Native American, Latinos, Caucasians and others. it's time to allow gay and lesbian citizens their rights too, and sanction their right to be married if they choose to do so.