Media Buzz

Same-sex marriage coverage takes sharp turn as opposition fades

Reaction to AG Holder's comments


Also ... 

Fear and loathing at Russian network 

Same-sex marriage coverage takes sharp turn as opposition fades 

Is the same-sex marriage debate pretty much over?

A decade ago, it was a major wedge issue in American politics, and covered that way by the press.

Now a dramatic shift in public opinion, and a series of legal victories, seem to be melting the resistance of the Republican Party — and prompting conservatives to find new ways of framing the question.

First, the numbers: A new Washington Post/ABC poll has a record-high 59 percent supporting gay marriage, with 34 percent opposed.

The same poll, back in 2004, found 38 percent supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage, and 59 percent in opposition. That is nothing less than a head-spinning shift. Perhaps that’s why even GOP politicians who are against such marriages are muting their opposition now that they are legal in 17 states.

Remember when President Obama came out for same-sex marriage in 2012 and the media predicted a storm of controversy? Mitt Romney disagreed but never made an issue of it — unlike George W. Bush in 2004, who campaigned on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (but never really pursued it).

By the way, nearly eight in 10 in that Post poll say gays can parent as well as straight people. And the reason that the GOP has changed its tone: three-quarters of Americans under 30 back same-sex marriage (as opposed to less than half of senior citizens).

I believe the press is sometimes too disparaging of those who believe strongly that marriage should be between a man and a woman. That, after all, was Obama’s position until a couple of years ago. But clearly, given the views of those under 30, and given the Supreme Court striking down Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act, we are heading toward a different future.

The new flashpoint is over legislation along the lines of the bill that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed in Arizona. And on that point, nearly seven in 10 surveyed by Post/ABC say businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to gays.

Which brings me to Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, and his piece titled “The Terms of Our Surrender.”

Douthat, who sees gay marriage becoming legal in all 50 states, is sympathetic to the much-reviled Arizona measure, calling the press coverage “mendacious and hysterical.” He sees two paths for marriage opponents:  

In one scenario, “religious conservatives would essentially be left to promote their view of wedlock within their own institutions, as a kind of dissenting subculture emphasizing gender differences and procreation, while the wider culture declares that love and commitment are enough to make a marriage. And where conflicts arise — in a case where, say, a Mormon caterer or a Catholic photographer objected to working at a same-sex wedding — gay rights supporters would heed the advice of gay marriage’s intellectual progenitor, Andrew Sullivan, and let the dissenters opt out ‘in the name of their freedom — and ours.’”

In the other, which Douthat likens to southern battles over segregation, “the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business — which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.”

Douthat is essentially pleading for defeat with dignity. But his column drew harsh criticism from Mark Joseph Stern in Slate:

“Douthat strives to reframe the current debate about anti-gay discrimination (and even segregation) into one about sincere believers being brutally trampled by gay rights activists eager to bury religious freedom. It’s a failed effort, but a useful failure nonetheless. Arizona’s anti-gay bill may be dead, but several more are alive and kicking, and Douthat neatly anticipates the many straw men, euphemisms, and verbal chicanery anti-gay forces will deploy to make their case.

“In fact, Douthat’s column is such an effective piece of homophobic apologia that I expect many red state politicians to borrow from its playbook in the coming months and years.” 

It seemed to me one point was lost during the white-hot coverage of the Arizona bill: that relatively few people would be affected because there aren’t hordes of folks refusing to provide services to gay weddings and the like. As for Douthat’s tone, he also said this:

“Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.”

This is still a culture-war issue, but it is starting to lose its hot-button status.

Hillary’s age-old question

A USA Today piece notes that Stephen Colbert made fun of my recent report on whether journalists should raise questions about Hillary Clinton’s age: “I mean she’s going to be almost as old as Ronald Reagan was. But remember: those were man years.”

Now the paper itself has raised the issue in a poll:

“How old is Hillary Rodham Clinton?

“Nearly 6 in 10 Americans, or 57%, correctly guessed Clinton is in her 60s, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. (Clinton is actually 66 years old.) That compares to 31% of respondents who believe the possible 2016 presidential candidate is in her 50s . Very few adults believe Clinton is younger (6%) or over 70 (3%).

“The poll finds that the public tends to underestimate Clinton’s age. Eight in 10 respondents, or 83%, say she’s 65 or younger.”

Fear and loathing at Russian network

More fireworks at the Kremlin-owned station RT, where anchor Liz Wahl quit yesterday.

“I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government, that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” she said. “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why after this newscast, I am resigning.”

Good for her. She chose her conscience over her career.

I was also impressed when RT anchor Abby Martin spoke out against the Russian invasion of Crimea — prompting the station to say it was shipping her there so she could, uh, learn more about the region.

But turns out that Martin, who is also American, has a history. She is a 9/11 Truther.

The New York Times reports that Martin’s “animating obsession has been her conviction that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were part of a government conspiracy. Before she rose to prominence on television, she was an active member of what is known as the 9/11 Truth movement, whose members hold that the official history of the terrorist attacks is a cover for a concealed government conspiracy.

“In video posted on YouTube recorded during a 9/11 Truth march in Santa Monica, Calif., during the Bush administration, she can be heard explaining that she concluded that the attacks were ‘an inside job’ because ‘I’ve researched it for three years and every single thing that I uncover solidifies my belief that it was an inside job and that our government was complicit in what happened.’”

So much for her brief turn as a journalistic heroine. 

Click for more from Media Buzz

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.