Network coverage of the victory of California's Proposition 8 has focused principally on the supposed denial of rights to homosexuals, rather than the public affirmation that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Last Tuesday, California voters upheld traditional marriage by approving Prop. 8, the ballot measure that overturned a state Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Though the victory of a socially conservative ballot initiative in a very liberal state, in a very liberal year, is a major story, the networks have preferred to focus on the homosexuals protesting the will of the people.
The networks covered Prop. 8 heavily between Nov. 5 and Nov. 9, the five days after Election Day. In a total of 13 network news stories, only four supporters of traditional marriage appeared on air, compared to 15 opponents. Only one story, a package aired on ABC's Nov. 9 Good Morning America, noted that Proposition 8 passed by a half-million votes. Six stories observed that 18,000 same-sex 'marriages' could be affected by the passage of the initiative.
Network coverage revolved around the battle cry of "equality" and the bruised feelings of Prop. 8 opponents. NBC aired footage of homosexual protestors shouting, "What do we want? Equality!" on the November 6 and November 9 Nightly News broadcasts. The November 9 Nightly News also featured an unidentified woman stating, "I had never felt such a sense of being less of a person."
ABC's November 9 Good Morning America featured rally organizer Ian Thompson calling Proposition 8 "discriminatory." Married lesbian Robin Tyler stated during CBS's November 7 Early Show, "We are a civil rights movement. We're entitled to full equality." Diane Olson, a "same-sex spouse," told CBS Evening News on November 5, "The fact that some people would like to undo our 'I do' makes me very sad."
No network stories discussed the moral and societal implications of changing the definition of marriage, nor did the networks allow any supporters to provide a detailed defense of Proposition 8.
In contrast, all three networks gave platforms to Prop. 8 opponents to assert that marriage is a "fundamental right." Star Trek's George Takei, who "married" his partner Brad Altman in September, told CBS's Maggie Rodriguez on the November 7 Early Show, "This is a fundamental right, all-inclusive, as the Supreme Court of California has ruled, and this is taking away that fundamental right." Ron Buckmire, a homosexual activist, told ABC's Bill Weir on the November 9 Good Morning America, "We had the fundamental right to marry in the state of California and by popular vote, the people of California decided to strip that right away from us, to carve out an exception that everyone in the state would have the right to marry except for same-sex couples." Later that night Lorri Jean from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center appeared on NBC's Nightly News and said, "The majority should not be voting on fundamental rights." Not only did the reporters fail to challenge the assertion that marriage is a fundamental right, Rodriguez and Weir referred to the partners of Takei and Buckmire as their "husbands."