Issues from the LGBT community permeated news cycles during the month of February.
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out and is set to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL. Media overwhelmingly supported Sam. The Texas Supreme Court struck down Texas’ gay marriage law – and, on the same day, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a law that would have allowed business owners and others protection should they be sued over refusing service because of religious reasons.
Media have overwhelmingly supported these stories, providing enough criticism in the Arizona case that many of the senators who voted for the bill asked Brewer to veto it.
All this support for LGBT issues begs the question: Is this the liberal media at work? After all, a recent Pew Poll says that the United States is split at about 53 percent to 47 percent in favor of gay marriage. But the press overwhelmingly supported vetoing the Arizona bill and described it as unfair and discriminatory. Even Fox News came out in favor of Brewer’s veto.
In fact, one has to resort to conservative blogs to find consistent stories that support the bill in Arizona, bemoan Sam’s announcement and show a belief that the Texas Supreme Court got it wrong (here and here).
So why are media reporting in favor of gay rights when so many in the country (47 percent is a lot of people) clearly disagree?
One answer could be found in deontological ethics. Deontological ethics relies on a sense of duty; one is expected to do what is right because of an obligation to a set of rules. Journalists have a duty to report news as it happens – and an obligation to report accurately what is happening.
The Arizona bill followed a failed attempt at basically the same thing in Kansas, but when the bill passed in Arizona, businesses such as Apple, Major League Baseball and the National Football League all weighed in with their opinions. Media reported that. The Texas Supreme Court followed the law, taking its example from last summer’s Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Law and history seem to be working hand-in-hand with the LGBT community, and media members are much more likely to follow their example when writing about current issues.
Those opposed are often relying on religion as their primary reason for opposing gay marriage, and for not accepting athletes such as Michael Sam. Don’t forget that religion was used to defend slavery, to wage war on the Jews and to defend Jim Crow laws (here and here.) It took the work of many dedicated people – and a large number of journalists – to shine the light on the darkness of Jim Crow, and it’s a different brand of journalists making the same arguments for gay rights. This coverage of gay-rights events is not an example of the liberal media; it’s an example of media doing their duty – and their job.