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 Covering the Press & Social Movements



Gay Journalists and Marriage: Newsrooms must always be mindful of conflicts of interest, but deciding when a reporter is too close to a story isn't always easy. Editor & Publisher, July 1, 2004

The Gathering Storm Over Gay Rights Village Voice, August 6-12, 2003

Playing catch-up on gay sex ban Boston Globe,
June 29, 2003

Sodomy law belonged to bygone era Dallas Morning News, June 27, 2003

Conservatives Furious Over Court's Direction New York Times, June 27, 2003

Time to face facts: Gays gain victory (Opinion) Washington Times, June 20, 2003

Why we used the kissing photo Halifax Herald,
June 12,2003

What Gay Media? New York Press, March 26,  2003

The Koufax conundrum Washington Times, 
February 28,  2003

What's In A Word? Metro Weekly Magazine (GLBT), January 16,  2003

O'Reilly Interview Shocker: FOX NEWS Star Knocks 'Religious Fanatics' Who Oppose Gay Rights About.com August 28, 2002







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Editor & Publisher,
July 1, 2004

Gay Journalists and Marriage
Newsrooms must always be mindful of conflicts of interest, but deciding when
a reporter is too close to a story isn't always easy.
By Carl Sullivan

It's an old but perennial question: Can gay journalists cover gay issues? Should black reporters write about civil rights? May a 
practicing Christian fairly report on Mel Gibson's "Christ" movie?

The short answer to all these questions: it depends. It's been over three months since the San Francisco Chronicle controversially removed two lesbian journalists from the same-sex marriage 
beat, but the decision was still a hot topic at this past weekend's National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) convention in 
Brooklyn, N.Y.

After covering the first lesbian couple to get married at San Francisco City Hall in February, Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon and 
photographer Liz Mangelsdorf, who have been partners for over four years, "owned" the remarkable news story for about a month. But when Chronicle editors discovered that the two women were married on March 9, they were 
taken off the story. The decision split the Chronicle newsroom and sparked outside protests.

One thing's for certain: the Chronicle won't be the last newspaper to deal with this issue. Court cases involving marriage rights for gay men and lesbians are likely to meander through the legal system for years, filling endless inches of news columns. Roberta A. Kaplan, an attorney involved with a same-sex marriage suit against the state of New York, points out that it took 17 years for suits against interracial-marriage bans to work their way up to the Supreme Court.

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Village Voice,
August 6-12, 2003

Richard Goldstein
Get Back!
The Gathering Storm Over Gay Rights

his is a moment of woe and wonder for supporters of gay rights. The Episcopalians took a big step toward electing their first openly gay bishop, braving a schism. The Massachusetts Supreme Court is about to rule on legalizing gay unions. The first LGBT high school is set to open in New York City. But there are also signs of a serious backlash.

On Wednesday, the president vowed to codify "one way or the other" the "sanctity of marriage" between a man and a woman. On Thursday, the Vatican launched a crusade against same-sex unions, equating gay parenting with doing violence to children. On Friday, a group of Latino ministers led by Ruben Diaz, the city's most homophobic politician, pledged to cut off public funding for the Harvey Milk School. And on Monday, the Episcopalians delayed their election vote after a man sent a last-minute e-mail alleging that the prospective bishop had touched him inappropriately. (At press time an investigation of that charge and another involving a website for gay youths was under way.)

The most ominous news of all was last week's Gallup poll, commissioned by CNN and USA Today. Its numbers were so stunning that the surveyors ran a second poll, but the results were similar. For the first time in nearly a decade, support for key items on the gay rights agenda has declined.

In May, 60 percent of Gallup respondents thought gay sex should be legal, but by last week that number had shrunk to 48 percent. For the first time since 1997, a majority think being gay is not an "acceptable alternative lifestyle." And when it comes to civil unions, the trend towardacceptance has been reversed. Fifty-seven percent think gay couples should not have the same rights as married people, the highest number since Gallup first posed the question in 2000.

Nor is this opposition limited to the right. The biggest negative shift has occurred among moderates and even liberals. In May, 80 percent of liberals favored gay civil unions, if not full-blown marriage; in July, that number was down by 23 percent. Support for same-sex marriage rights has always been shaky among African Americans, but they have never thought sodomy should be a crime—until now. In the new Gallup poll, only 36 percent of blacks think gay sex should be legal, compared with 58 percent who thought so in May.

Do these new numbers signal a major shift? Leading gay activists think not. "What counts is the movie, not the snapshot," says Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. "If you look at poll after poll over the past few years, it's clear that the long-term trend is toward acceptance of marriage equality." 

That's also what Human Rights Campaign, the national gay lobby, surmises from its own poll and another by the prestigious Pew Forum. But both these surveys were conducted weeks before Gallup's. Wolfson cites favorable polls in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California. Support for gay marriage is strongest on the coasts, but it's another story in the South and Midwest, where large majorities oppose allowing people of the same sex to wed.

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Boston Globe,
June 29, 2003

Playing catch-up on gay sex ban

By Ellen Goodman

And so we bid farewell to the Texas Taliban as they ride into the legal sunset. The Supreme Court has finally put an end to a long line of theocrats and theojudges who told consenting adults what they could do to whom and with which body parts.

The case began when police burst into a Houston apartment on a false report that two men were fighting. When they found the men making love instead, they arrested, fined, and jailed the pair.

Thursday, a 6-3 majority ruled that the antisodomy law violated a homosexual's right to privacy. In an eloquent opinion that spoke of dignity and enduring personal bonds, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. ... The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice."

The decision was declared a landmark with cheers on one side and outrage on the other. Justice Antonin Scalia, reading his dissent aloud, fumed that "The court ... has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda."

But for all the hullabaloo, this case feels less like it's breaking new ground than mopping up some old and tired terrain.

Back in 1960, every state in the union had a law against sodomy, whether it was between man and man or man and woman. Today only 13 states call it a crime and four of them are targeted solely to gays.

As recently as 1986, an earlier Supreme Court shamefully upheld antisodomy laws because, in Chief Justice Warren Burger's words, homosexuality was "morally reprehensible" conduct, and that was reason enough to make it illegal. Justice Byron White added that there was "no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other ..."

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Dallas Morning News,
June 27, 2003

Editorial: Good Riddance

Sodomy law belonged to bygone era

The Supreme Court has righted a grievous wrong by striking down Texas' sodomy statute and, at long last, has extended equality under the law to gay Americans.

Sodomy laws belonged to another era. As recently as 1960, every state had one. Before Thursday's 6-3 decision, only 13 states still criminalized certain sexual practices between consenting adults, and Texas was one of just four states that outlawed behavior between same-sex couples that it permitted between men and women - married or unmarried.

The two men who challenged the Texas statute were arrested in the bedroom, jailed overnight and, upon conviction, fined. The question never should have been, "What were John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner doing in that bedroom?" but rather, "What was the state's interest there?"

Expressing moral disapproval? Government has far more legitimate and pressing concerns.

It was onerous enough that sodomy laws constituted an unwarranted invasion of a consenting adult's privacy. But Texas' statute was especially heinous in that it singled out one group of Americans and denied them the legal protections enjoyed by others. Although rarely enforced, it still engendered prejudice and was used to legitimize discrimination.

Like the Jim Crow laws of a shameful past, state sodomy laws too often became the justification for demonizing and marginalizing an entire class of people. Gays were denied employment, housing and even visits with their children because, in the eyes of the state, they were criminals.

Anti-discrimination ordinances and policies curbed some of the injustices in recent years. But the sodomy law still was there - as a bulwark for hatred.

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New York Times,
June 27, 2003

Conservatives Furious Over Court's Direction

By Neil A. Lewis

WASHINGTON - Some social conservatives expressed white-hot fury today over the Supreme Court's 6-to-3 ruling striking down a Texas sodomy law and expanding the rights of gay men and lesbians.

"This has not been a good week for social conservatives," said Jay A. Sekulow, the legal director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal advocacy group founded by Pat Robertson.

"Both the affirmative action and the gay rights decision reflect a political approach to the law that we deplore," Mr. Sekulow said, referring to a court decision on Monday allowing universities to use narrowly tailored affirmative action in admissions programs. "But we all were especially surprised by the scope and breadth of today's opinion.

It was a grand-slam homer for the other side."

While the affirmative action decision angered many conservatives, today's ruling on the Texas statute cut far deeper, especially for groups that view issues like sexual conduct as freighted with profound moral and religious significance.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, an evangelical leader, said in an interview that "this is probably as bad a day as the court has had on social issues since Roe v. Wade," the 1973 ruling that first found a constitutional right to abortion. The court, Mr. Falwell said, had put "the right of privacy ahead of respect for community standards of morality which have prevailed for many years."

Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, characterized the decision as "classic judicial activism arrogance."

Mr. Connor said that none of the rights the court enunciated today were found in either the text of the Constitution or the history of the nation. Like many other critics of today's ruling, he cited Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, in which Justice Scalia suggested that the ruling opened the way for judicial sanctioning of other sexual activities that have traditionally been outlawed by states.

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Washington Times,
June 20, 2003

Time to face facts: Gays gain victory (Opinion)

By Jonah Goldberg, The Washington Times

The gays have won. The problem is no one will admit it. 

The biggest and latest news is that Canada is poised to legalize same-sex marriage. But the signs of the gay victory have been all around for us for years.

The sitcom "Will and Grace" features openly gay characters who joke about their sex lives in ways that little more than a decade ago would have sparked complaints if uttered by heterosexuals, let alone homosexuals. Showtime's "Queer as Folk" depicts random gay sex in precisely the same trivial terms that HBO's "Sex in the City" depicts random heterosexual sex, which is to say with an air of unbridled celebration.

For the popular culture this signals the final stage of mainstreaming homosexuality. After repeated protests from gay groups in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hollywood stopped casting gays and lesbians as villains (think of "No Way Out" and "Basic Instinct"). By the end of the '90s, gays could be found all over movies and TV, but they were depicted as virtuous celibates. In movies like "Sling Blade," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and that execrable drek by Madonna "The Next Best Thing," gays were cast as the only decent and honorable white men around.

My favorite example was the gay character from the Fox nighttime soap, "Melrose Place," which ran for most of the 1990s. Every straight character in the show was having sex at the drop of a hat. Except, for the gay guy, Matt Fielding, played by Doug Savant.

Almost every episode featured the gay pretty boy lecturing his straight friends about their reckless promiscuity or bailing them out from their dysfunctional relationships while he remained as chaste as Greg Brady on "The Brady Bunch."

But the gay victory doesn't just manifest itself in the popular culture. The mainstream media have collectively decided to mainstream gays. The New York Times runs gay "marriage" announcements alongside straight ones in its wedding notices section (aka "the chick sports pages").

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Halifax Herald,
June 12,2003

Why we used the kissing photo

Sheryl Grant, Assistant Managing Editor

Our newsroom phones rang off the hook Wednesday over the decision to use a picture of Canada's first legally married gay couple on the front page.    

Not just any picture, but a picture of Toronto couple Michael Stark and Michael Leshner kissing.

We knew going in that the decision would be controversial.  And believe me, there was plenty of discussion in the newsroom Tuesday about
whether running the picture was the right thing to do.

Not all of us agreed.  What it came down to in the end was a decision based on whether we could defend using the picture as good journalism. Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Our discussion went something like this.

So, was it front page news?  The same-sex marriage was a first for Canada, making it a historic moment worth recording.

Secondly, the sanctioning of gay marriage is one of two major social changes we can expect to see action on in Canada this year.  (The other is the decriminalization of marijuana, which the federal government has signalled its intention to act on with the introduction in May of legislation to that effect.)

So, yes, we thought we could defend it from a news point of view. Should we show them kissing?  Again, much discussion and thought.
Would it be too much for some readers?  Well, maybe.

We had options.  The Canadian Press distributed several photos of the couple.  Couldn't we just use a photo of the couple standing side by side and smiling happily?

Well, we could have.  But the photo of the kissing couple was the best of the bunch from a purely photographic point of view. And it also, we felt, went straight to the heart of the story.
This was, after all, what the story was about.

The Ontario Court of Appeal had just given gay couples the right to get dressed up in their Sunday best, go down to city hall and get married.

The kiss is, in effect, the sealing of the deal, just as it is when straight couples say I do.

And so, the decision was made. I walked away from the office Tuesday night thinking we had done what good editors should do.  We had presented the news of the day in a way that was accurate, fair and thought-provoking.

It's what we try to do every day.  It's not always easy.  And not everyone agrees with us.

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New York Press, 
March 26,  2003

The Gist
Michelangelo Signorile 
What Gay Media?
Equal rights in theory and practice.

When a nationwide manhunt ensued for a spree killer shortly after designer Gianni Versace was killed in 1997—during the height of the Clinton era, a time in which we were supposedly heralding the gay rights movement’s having arrived—Tom Brokaw, on NBC Nightly News, warned millions of people to be on the look-out for a "homicidal homosexual." Brokaw was talking about suspect Andrew Cunanan, who was gay, and he conjured up every dark Hollywood fabrication about murderous sexual deviants. 

Could you imagine Brokaw saying "a homicidal Jew" was on the loose? Not likely in 1997, but it certainly was how, 70 or so years ago, the media in Europe and America would have described a murderer who happened to be Jewish. Brokaw’s words underscore how far the media have to go in dealing with gays and lesbians, Will & Grace and civil union announcements notwithstanding.

The media’s treatment of gay issues popped into my head recently as I read Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News. I wrote a column last week about What Liberal Media?, noting that the insightful and gutsy book skillfully destroys the liberal media myth. On the issue of media bias and gay rights, however, Alterman is off-base. It’s not a major flaw of the book, but it needs to be addressed.

Conceding that the right may be correct in at least some of its charges, Alterman claims that the "overall flavor of the elite media reporting favors…gay rights" in addition to other issues, such as "gun control" and the "environmental movement." Though he doesn’t "find this bias as overwhelming as some conservative critics do," he still believes it exists.

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Washington Times, 
February 28,  2003

The Weekly Dish (excerpt)

Andrew Sullivan

The Koufax conundrum

You've got to love the following response by a gay leftist to the New York Post's recent "outing" of Sandy Koufax, the baseball legend. Michael Bronski of the Boston Phoenix writes the following:

"Maybe Koufax is secretly gay - plenty of gay men have been married, many twice - or bisexual, or who knows what. But at its heart, this isn't a gay story, or even a sex story - it is a baseball story. Baseball fans are simply unwilling or unable to contemplate the possibility that a baseball legend might be gay. The one lesson we can all learn from the Koufax affair is that when even the New York Daily News can recycle the old Seinfeld line - "not that there's anything wrong with that" - about gayness, the reality is that lots of people still think there is. Otherwise, privacy and principles aside, it wouldn't even be an issue."

Privacy and principles aside?? The question is not whether Koufax is gay or not; nor is it whether disdain of homosexuals fuels opinion in the sports world. The question is simply about whether a newspaper should run blind items trashing people's private lives, and impugning their personal integrity. End of conversation.

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Metro Weekly Magazine (GLBT), 
January 16,  2003

What's In A Word?

Holding the Lexical Line at the Washington Times

By Sean Bugg

Are you now, or have you ever been, a homosexual? Or do you prefer the more modern appellation, gay? 

Most likely, the latter. While gays and lesbians have adopted and discarded many names over the years - "uranian" becomes a historical footnote, while "queer" undergoes a progressive retrofitting - most homosexuals have come to agree that one of the last things they want to be called is "homosexual."

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 August 28, 2002

"O'Reilly Interview Shocker: FOX NEWS Star Knocks 'Religious Fanatics' Who Oppose Gay Rights"

by John Aravosis

[Note: The website contains audio clips of the O'Reilly interview that contain additional quotes not included in the article below.]

America's religious right does not tolerate those they believe to be ideologically impure, and that's why they're bound to be a bit upset with FOX TV superstar Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly is the host of "The O'Reilly Factor," a no-holds-barred slugfest of ideas that regularly lambastes feminists, Democrats, the ACLU and anyone else (usually on the left) who ticks the Irish-Catholic O'Reilly off on a given day. Gays and lesbians are a particular target of the hit show, getting more than their fair share of negative air time, and that's why O'Reilly's upcoming interview in America's premiere gay magazine, the Advocate, is raising eyebrows even before it's publication. (Liz Smith is already calling the interview a "bang-up job" in her nationally-syndicated column.) It's odd enough that TV's top conservative pundit is talking to a gay publication, but even more surprising is what he tells them. (The interview will hit the new stands on September 3).


According to Michael Giltz, a freelance reporter (and personal friend of mine) who conducted the interview live in O'Reilly's Manhattan office, O'Reilly not only reiterates his previous support for gay adoption, but he goes on to call the US military "homophobic" (though he still thinks the gay ban is necessary), says that gays should have the right to visit their same-sex spouses in the hospital (in many locales they cannot), thinks every state should have laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace (only 12 states currently do), and opposes the repeal of a gay rights ordinance in Florida's Miami-Dade County (the hotly-contested repeal measure is on the ballot September 10).

That's enough right there to make the religious right grab for a Maalox. But there's more. On gay marriage, one of the hot-button religious-right issues, O'Reilly starts by telling Giltz that he opposes it, then when pushed by the reporter, finally concedes: "Look, I couldn't care less, to tell you the truth... You want to get married? Knock yourself out. Go to Vegas; have a good time... If you can get that changed, I'm not going to jump up and down and say I think it's wrong, because I don't."

Who You Calling a Fanatic?

Then things get really interesting. O'Reilly calls people who quote the Old Testament to label gays an abomination "holy rollers" (a term often perceived to be pejorative). Then he refers to vocal anti-gay advocates as "fanatics." ("90% percent of Americans don't care what you do; 10% are fanatics," O'Reilly tells Giltz. "They think you're going to hell, and they want you to go to hell. All right? Ignore them.") When asked to clarify exactly who he means by "fanatics," O'Reilly responds: "I mean, people who think you are going to hell and are going to quote from Revelation that you're going there. I think that's a little ridiculous, don't you? Those are the people."

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