Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Homosexuality and the Media
by Don Feder
It is a privilege to speak at a conference that has been condemned by a city council. I have been shot at in the war in El Salvador--I was covering the civil war there and my helicopter was shot at. I have had my Jeep hit with rocks in the Gaza Strip. But I have never spoken at a conference that was condemned by a city council, and I consider it quite a privilege. Also, I used to think that Boston had the goofiest city council in the country and it is nice to know that I am wrong. Indeed, there is a sillier, goofier, more absurd city council than the Boston City Council and that is your city council, here in Los Angeles.
Fellow homophobes, hate mongers, bigots, religious zealots, sexually-repressed Victorians, and fascist troglodytes, greetings and salutations. Of course, I am being facetious. Still, one cannot help but feel that this is how my colleagues of the Fourth Estate view us: as reactionaries animated by fear and malice, superstitious fanatics living decades in the past, the '90s equivalent of the cross-burning night riders of the Jim Crow era.
Before we explore the specifics of media bias, misreporting, manipulation, and coverage of what may well be the most crucial social debate of our era, the first question one must ask is Why? Why is the media—both electronic and print—so overwhelmingly and adamantly pro-gay rights? Why does it accept each and every one of the homosexual movement’s axioms as revealed truth? Why does it show disdain, if not downright loathing, for those of us who dissent from this dogma? The answer, though only partial, is that the average journalist is—I am glad you are all sitting down; those of you with a weak heart, brace yourselves—the average journalist is a liberal. Yes, shocking, is it not?
The question then becomes: why are liberals so rigidly doctrinaire on this issue? There are three answers: equality, sex, and determinism. Sometime early in this century, equality replaced liberty as liberalism’s first principle. Let any individual or group of individuals with one or more distinguishing characteristics define themselves as a minority, or better yet, as an oppressed minority, and liberals will work themselves into a frenzy, demanding that discrimination against this group be abolished and tolerance be legally mandated.
Second, the joys of sex. For modern liberals, sex is always good--and an unqualified good at that. Because they are materialists, for them pleasure is the highest principle. Thus, for liberals, sex is always terrific. By the way, that is why they unquestioningly accept the feminist doctrine that rape is not a crime of passion, but a crime of power. To admit that the sex drive could be perverted would be tantamount to a confession that sex can be a bane, as well as a blessing. That is something liberals simply cannot do. Since homosexual intercourse leads to sexual release, for liberals, it must—by definition—be a fine and noble thing.
Third, determinism. At about the same time that the Democratic left traded liberty for equality, it also exchanged free will for determinism. Liberals believe that most, if not all, human drives and actions are dictated by heredity, environment, or a combination of the two, hence their sympathy for criminals. When gays--homosexuals--tell media liberals that their sexual orientation is innate, unalterable, and uncontrollable, the audience is most receptive.
Let me add a fourth element: elitism. Media liberals love to sneer at the masses and delight in ridiculing their so-called lack of enlightenment and sophistication. Homosexuality is a perfect issue for berating the great unwashed and for allowing liberals to decry our ignorant bigotry, while getting a self-righteous glow at their own tolerance and humanity.
Having, I hope, explained why the media marches in lock step with the gay rights movement, it remains to be seen how this partnership is reflected in news coverage.
To illustrate the point, I have decided to focus on a single, political controversy and the way in which one media outlet covered that issue. In May of this year, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani filed legislation to give unmarried couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, essentially the same treatment from the City of New York as families. The next day, the New York Times, which fancies itself as "America’s Newspaper of Record," ran a front page story on this development, headlined: "Giuliani Asks City to Extend Rights to Unmarried Couples."
The article started on the front page with a jump to the inside and ran several thousand words. The story explained that under this ordinance, domestic partners who are registered with the city for a twenty dollar fee and who have declared that they have a close and committed relationship—whatever that is—would receive a panoply of privileges heretofore reserved exclusively for married couples, including but not limited to: joint burial in city cemeteries, visitation rights in hospitals, and bereavement leave for city employees.
The article observed that, in filing this legislation, the Mayor was merely fulfilling a campaign pledge to gay and lesbian organizations. It speculated that, with the support of City Council Speaker Pete Balone, its passage was assured. It quoted Matt Foreman, the Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights group, as to the necessity for this enlightened legislation. Nowhere in this extensive article—again, running several thousand words—was there a single word of dissent. Not one opponent was quoted. Most specifically, there was absolutely no speculation about the law’s impact on real families.
This piece was followed by an article published on May 13th, headlined: "Gay Groups Rejoice in Mayor’s Move, As Critics Deplore It." The critics quoted were exactly two: Bob Knight of the Family Research Council and Artie Owens, Communications Director of the Christian Coalition—one group based in Washington and the other in Virginia. Was there no organized opposition within the five boroughs? There was, as we shall see, but readers wouldn’t know it from reading the New York Times.
On May 24th, in his Sunday homily, John Cardinal O’Connor delivered a stinking rebuke to the legislation and its proponents. America’s foremost Roman Catholic prelate declared: "It is imperative, in my judgement, that no law be passed contrary to natural, moral law and western tradition by virtually legislating that marriage does not matter," which in the Cardinal’s opinion is precisely what domestic partnership legislation does.
The next day, the Times reported Cardinal O’Connor’s remarks, with the headline, "Cardinal Sees Marriage Harm in Partners Bill." Of course, it had to. Other than Mayor Giuliani, Cardinal O’Connor is probably the second most prominent New Yorker. However, to undercut Cardinal O’Connor’s words, the Times offered rebuttals by two lesbian police officers, a clergyman who leads a gay and lesbian ministry at a local church and the Mayor himself, among others. The article identifies the Cardinal as a conservative—even though he is quite liberal on economic matters—who "has been criticized by some unidentified Catholics for being overly orthodox at a time when his Church is diversifying."
How the media adores what they call "diversity"! In other words, according to the New York Times, Cardinal O’Connor is an old fogy, out of step with American Catholics, and his remarks may be dismissed on this basis. To emphasize the point, the story noted that the month before, Cardinal O’Connor objected to major league baseball games being played on Sunday. Note the implied equivalence: Sunday baseball, sodomy. Both are lifestyle choices—no big deal. In other words, the Times implied that the Cardinal’s objection to the domestic partnership bill is one more eccentric view of a man seriously at odds with his times.
Lastly, there was a New York Times article of June 3rd, reporting on the first City Council hearings on the domestic partnership bill. This article—believe it or not—actually contained a smattering of objective reporting. For instance, it noted that, of the roughly 200 people who showed up for the hearing, 150 were opposed to the ordinance.
However, testimony in favor of the ordinance was stacked four-to-one, in favor of proponents of the measure. It also noted that opponents, in frustration, staged a walkout. It quoted Reverend Ruben Diaz, President of the New York City Hispanic Clergy Organization, complaining that opponents of the bill were basically ignored by the Council, as they had been by the New York Times up to that point in time.
Rev. Diaz is a prominent clergyman and an outspoken opponent of gay rights. The obvious question then becomes: why did the New York Times not go to him initially for his reaction to the ordinance? Or, why did it not present the views of Dr. Howard Hurwitz of the Family Defense Council, of Rabbi William Handler of Jews for Morality, or of one of the City’s many other pro-family leaders? It was not until the fourth in a series of articles that New Yorkers even got an intimation that there was organized opposition to the ordinance within New York City, other than in the Catholic Church.
Besides this blatant bias, the principal problem with media coverage of domestic partnership legislation is that it treats it as a civil rights issue, not as a family issue, not as a matter that will undercut family stability. In the May 25th story, the Times quotes Mayor Giuliani to the effect that, while Cardinal O’Connor is certainly entitled to push his arcane religious views, what we have here is "a basic human rights issue." Giuliani comments: "What if what the ordinance is really doing is preventing discrimination against people who have different sexual orientations or make different preferences in which they want to lead their lives?"
That is exactly the way the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media use the entire gay rights debate, from domestic partnership ordinances to hate crime laws to anti-discrimination measures to gay marriage. They never ask—and they rarely allow others to speculate on—the impact of government sanction of fornication and perversion on the family unit.
Domestic partners legislation seeks to give to the most transitory of unions the legitimacy traditionally afforded to society’s most enduring and most important institution. Thus, the couple that meets at a bar, spends the night together and proceeds to city hall the next day to register their relationship, gets the same legal sanction and privileges as the husband and wife married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral a decade ago, with four children and a mortgage.
One reason that we invest marriage with trappings—rings, vows, religious ceremonies—is to impress those who enter its covenant and society at large with its seriousness. It is not a union based on mutual convenience or mutual lust, but a bond of unlimited duration. Despite the prevalence of divorce today, most people still enter marriage with the expectation that it will last a lifetime, not so with domestic partnerships. When marriage loses its exclusivity, it loses some of its attraction. Thus, in America, since 1985, the number of heterosexual couples living together has more than doubled, while the number of married couples has risen by only 7%.
Removing the social stigma against premarital sex, illegitimacy, and cohabitation (what we used to call shacking-up, in my day) has taken its toll. Should we accelerate the trend by putting mere relationships—both natural and unnatural—on par with those who have made a lifelong commitment, who have sworn before God and man to love, honor, and obey, and who are doing society’s essential work of nurturing the next generation?
You will search in vain for a consideration of any of the above in news stories or broadcasts about domestic partnership laws. For my colleagues in the Fourth Estate, they are simply non-issues, the concerns of political demagogues and religious fanatics.
On this issue, one of the few voices of sanity in the New York media is columnist Ray Kiereson, who writes for the New York Post. In a column of May 28th, Kiereson charged, "The notion that two homosexuals, shacked up in a Greenwich Village loft, are the political, legal, societal, and moral equivalent of a man and a woman bonded in holy matrimony is palpably absurd. It seriously violates the natural law, transgresses the very code upon which this civilization rests, legitimizes perversion, and overturns all the Judeo-Christian traditions held sacred through thousands of years."
Indeed it does, which is why the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed the measure in June to sustain the media applause. Put simply and in a way that even they could understand, the mainstream media are missing the story here. They have not merely buried the lead; they have cremated it.
In the most significant controversy in the closing years of the 20th century, the one on which the fate of our civilization hinges, they have not only become open advocates for one side—the wrong side, at that—they have failed to even understand what is at stake here. They are like juvenile delinquents, helping to demolish a structure that was built over millennia, without any thought about where they and their descendants will reside, once the habitation has been razed.
Don Feder is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Boston Herald. This article is taken from remarks delivered at "Making Sense of Homosexuality," a conference whoch Doin was invited by Larry Arnn and Joe Nicolosi, and which was co-sponsored by The Claremont Institute and the National Association for Reasearch and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) Regal Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, CA., held on Saturday, October 24, 1998.