THE BLOG

The Media's Gay Affair With Marriage

01/13/2009 05:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Judy Wieder Judy Wieder, former EIC of The Advocate; Former ED Out, OutTraveler, Advocate.com; Memoir due to publisher 12/14

Nothing is real in America unless you've seen it on TV or the net, heard it on the radio, or read about it somewhere. Even if you were there yourself, it rarely seems real until you can point to the tube, the website, or open the morning paper and say, "Look, see, it happened!" So with that unsettling thought in mind, it follows that people make up their minds about damn near everything based on the filter of the media.

And what has the media been stirring and serving up with "Gay Marriage" -- a misnomer I wince at, like "Gay Rights"? It's simply marriage for LGBT humans. Just like it's equal rights -- not gay rights -- for LGBT people. (Where is GLAAD when we need them?) Actually, for the most part, the media has been having a sunny, good time in California, trying to catch the June wedding spirit, while sprinkling just enough of the dark side to keep things balanced: the November Ballot Measure and the occasional sullen interview with a protester positive God is horrified. Perhaps it's that old Montana expression, "It's as if they tipped the country to the west and all the wingnuts rolled to California," but there's been a primarily positive feeling about gays and lesbians getting married in the Big Orange.

Both NBC, CBS and ABC prime time news led with stories of gay couples lining up to get marriage licenses the day before most couples began marrying. Then the networks did it again on June 17th. Their video coverage was, in fact, very similar to Advocate.com's and other LGBT website's, without some of the history they provided. However San Francisco's local channels, and the San Francisco Chronicle.com in particular, was as informative as any gay website! Not surprisingly their coverage included: enough time to plan for basics, marriage plans around the Bay Area, the long road to same-sex marriages, where SF couples meet, etc. OK, that's SF.
The June 17th Los Angeles Times actually broke its stranglehold on large frontpage Laker Team photos to print a joyous shot of Robin Tyler and Diane Olson getting married. And since this is about the media, it will probably tickle comedian Tyler that after who knows how many years in show business, it took one day of getting married (I'm not disregarding her historic fight to get there) for the mass media to make her the hot celebrity of the moment. She even managed to outshine Star Trek actor George Takei's public wedding to partner Brad Altman. What a career, Robin!

The New York Times had a front page wedding photo as did the New York Times.com plus their Times.com radio SF correspondent, Jesse McKinley, reporting on different LGBT couples as they got married. They too had slide shows and solicited users to send their marriage stories to the website. The Huffington Post kept a mix of photos, news stories, and blogs, including some insightful thoughts about the legal and financial implications of jumping into marriage. In another part of the forest, Fox News.com didn't even honor "gay marriage" with a zinger. Instead, it was missing altogether on its June 17th home page. But if you dug your way into Gay & Lesbian News, you could read about a lesbian couple calling in quits in Vermont (i.e. first divorce) or a Los Angeles Times sportswriter changing gender, etc.

However, even Fox News.com got on the band wagon and ran the all-important May 30th story of New York Governor David Paterson telling New York state agencies to immediately change policies and regulations and recognize all gay marriages. This also meant that gay New Yorkers could marry in California and have their marriages recognized in New York. Every major outlet ran the story making that media moment the one to lift marriage between gay partners out of California and across the country. With it the tone was set for an upbeat news event.
Which is one of the greatest or most horrifying things about the media. It feeds on itself. Just ask Ellen DeGeneres. Once the tone is set for something, a scandal, a failure, a success, a struggle, etc., a network logo is set and the frenzy begins. While not in the frenzy category (yet?), "Gay Marriage" in California has definitely gotten big play. People are into it. They like reading the details and seeing how everyone looks. And with the word out for gays to act "normal" and not scare the horses, some of their wedding attire is something to covet. Macy's came through. Even the suspense of what will happen in November -- will the marriages stick this time or will they be rendered null and void? -- is good copy. So for now, it's right to say that the media has put out a fair and festive filter through which the masses are experiencing this potentially huge sociological change.