Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is Marriage Under Attack? That’s what Brian Wlliams of NBC Nightly News claimed on his show on November 19th:

He doesn’t say exactly what marriage is under attack from, but as Jeremy at Good As You points out, his comment fits nicely into the anti-gay conservative frame that evangelical activists are are promoting about gays wanting to destroy the “sanctity of marriage.

Marriage is being harmed by a lot of things, like serial adulterers like Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich, economic pressures that make it difficult for couples to stay together, and the drive-through marriage culture of Las Vegas. Same-sex couples wishing to marry have nothing to do with those things.

Gay Americans should be applauded for fighting so hard for the right to marry, as some heterosexuals, like Britney Spears, change who they are married as often as the change their hair extensions.

Say it with me Brian, “Same-sex couples are not a threat to marriage.”

PART II: In response to questions raised by bloggers about his statement that “marriage is under attack,” NBC’s Brian Williams posted this statement to his blog:

I was the recipient today of several emails from well-intentioned people, telling me I was being attacked in parts of the blogosphere for something I wrote and said on the air in last night’s broadcast. It was a closing piece about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrating their 60th anniversary. I noted this accomplishment, especially in this era when, as I put it, marriage seems “under attack” as an institution. My meaning? Our national divorce rate, which is currently somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood. In fact, one comment shared with me today came from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, who said, “It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack — by straight people. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement.”

Note the dismissive tone of his post ("well-intentioned people") and him saying that he was under attack from bloggers because of the questions that we raised. He also makes it seem as though we pull the questions that we raised out of our butts:
Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood.

Its great that Williams has stated in his blog post that he was not referring to gay people, but he is an experienced news professional who uses words for a living. He should know the importance of being as clear as possible when making statements such as “marriage is under attack.”

As GLAAD president Neil Guiliano pointed out in a letter to Williams:

Your blog entry today confirms that your use of the phrase on last night’s broadcast was not in any way intended to disparage gay couples, and that expression is appreciated. However, the primary issue is whether a phrase that has been used predominantly in an ugly anti-gay context can be used in another, tangentially related context (here, marriage in a general sense) without invoking the stereotypes that imbrue its common usage.

The phrase ”marriage under attack” — like “defense of marriage,” which you use elsewhere in your blog entry — is a meme designed and used by far-right anti-gay activists to scare people into opposing legal protections for gaycouples. Media professionals who talk about marriage-related issues in their reporting should simply and factually discuss them, rather than uncritically repeating rhetoric calculated to make people feel threatened by and afraid of loving, committed couples.

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