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Networks Ignore Push for Repeal of DOMA

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York introduced a new threat to traditional marriage on September 15 – a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).


News of Nadler's plan to introduce the Respect for Marriage Act broke late last week, but ABC, CBS and NBC all failed to report this latest push for forced acceptance of same-sex marriage. Although the health care reform debate has gobbled up media attention for weeks, the networks' silence on the fundamental issue of how the federal government defines marriage is odd.


Nadler's bill would overturn the 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. 


A September 15 press release issued by Nadler's office claimed the bill has 91 original co-sponsors. Nadler stated in the release, “With a President who is committed to repealing DOMA and a broad, diverse coalition of Americans on our side, we now have a real opportunity to remove from the books this obnoxious and ugly law.”


Not all Democrats agreed with Nadler. The Washington Blade reported on September 11 that Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts is not supporting Nadler's effort to overturn DOMA. “It's not anything that's achievable in the near term,” Frank said. The New York Times reported September 15 that Speaker Nancy Pelosi “also indicated this year that repealing the law would not be a top priority.”


ABC, CBS and NBC failed to take interest in the story, even with the added twist of intra-party (and even intra-administration) division over the bill. None of the networks have discussed this issue since President Obama's inauguration, despite his repeated calls during the 2008 campaign to repeal DOMA and despite a 54-page brief filed in support of DOMA by his Justice Department in June.


The brief, filed in the California case Smelt v. United States that challenged DOMA, outraged gay rights activists because, as reported by the Washington Post, it “appeared to equate same-sex marriage with incest and pedophilia” and the lawyers referred to marriage between a man and a woman as “the traditional and universally recognized form.”


Importance of DOMA


DOMA did not simply define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It banned the federal recognition of same-sex marriages. It also protects states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages that took place in other states.


“DOMA is the only federal law that protects marriage as the union of husband and wife, and guarantees voters in Georgia or Wisconsin that a handful of judges in Massachusetts will not be able to impose gay marriage on their state,” noted Maggie Gallagher, president and founder of the National Organization for Marriage.


Bryan Fischer, director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, focused his criticism of Nadler's efforts on the issue of states' rights.


“People in state after state have made it clear that they do not want either Congress or activist judges tampering with the time-honored institution of marriage,” he stated in a September 15 press release. “People who care about the institution of marriage and care about their own state's Tenth Amendment right to decide this issue for themselves should be outraged at this frontal assault on the cornerstone of American society and on the democratic process itself.”


Not Ignored in Print

 

While the networks have ignored DOMA, the editorial boards of The Washington Post and the New York Times urged the administration to overturn the law as soon as possible.


The Justice Department brief filed in June that supported DOMA inspired the Times' Frank Rich to write on June 28, “Obama's inaction on gay civil rights is striking. So is his utterly uncharacteristic inarticulateness. The Justice Department brief defending DOMA has spoken louder for this president than any of his own words on the subject.”


James Kirchick, assistant editor of the New Republic and a contributing writer to the Advocate, questioned Obama's commitment to same-sex marriage. “When it comes to same-sex marriage, the movement can't count on support from the current president,” Kirchick wrote. “Obama's stance on gay marriage is virtually indistinguishable from that of John McCain,” he later charged.


The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart gave Obama more cover in his June 21 editorial. “The first substantive comment on gay and lesbian equality since he took office was the Justice Department's noxious brief in Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer v United States of America, and it fueled suspicion that the president was backpedaling on his promises.” Capehart later urged gays and lesbians to look to Congress to achieve their “big victories, such as the repeal of DOMA and the 'don't ask don't tell' policy.”


On August 18, the Post reported that “the Obama administration distanced itself” from the Justice Department's June brief regarding DOMA.


A follow-up brief filed August 17 in the Smelt v. United States case did not contain the language that had inflamed gay rights activists. But as reported by the Post, “Senior trial counsel W. Scott Simpson embraced findings by researchers and prominent medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, in saying 'that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.”


DOMA, the administration's defense of it and the subsequent backing away from the defense, were not discussed on ABC, CBS, or NBC..


The networks habitually refused to cover DOMA-related news, as indicated by this year's lack of coverage and also their refusal to report Speaker Nancy Pelosi's firm 2008 statement of support for the repeal of DOMA.


This of course, is not to say that the networks refuse to cover news related to gay rights. Networks promoted same-sex marriage through the constant airing of Prop 8 protest footage in the days following the 2008 election.


Networks' Disservice


ABC, CBS and NBC committed a grave disservice to the American public by refusing to cover the issue of DOMA. The repeal of such a law has serious implications for society and culture.


Networks repeatedly proved their liberal bias. But at least in that, viewers knew something occurred and had the opportunity to seek out supplemental information. In the case of DOMA, viewers most likely haven't realized the very definition of traditional marriage is at stake.


 

 

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