A landmark marriage case opened Tuesday in the California Supreme Court that could have profound legal and social consequences for the entire nation.
Yet the major news networks completely ignored the story on their evening newscasts and even on the Wednesday morning shows.
At issue is California's marriage law, approved by voters in 2000 by a wide margin, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Because of California's history of liberal legal activism, court watchers are taking bets over whether the high bench will sucker punch the electorate and impose “gay marriage” on the state.
The big story in the news, not surprisingly, was the presidential primary election in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. All three networks also found time to cover the retirement of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
That's big news all right. But, surely, the networks could have squeezed in a minute to let Americans know that a court case threatening to tear apart the nation's social fabric got underway in San Francisco. They even could have used great footage of the surging crowds of demonstrators from both sides outside the courthouse.
The California case would have far greater national impact than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. While the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared in 2003 that the state's traditional marriage law was unconstitutional, another Massachusetts law prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying in the Bay State if their own state's law does not recognize such a marriage. Thus, “gay marriage” remained a Bay State oddity.
But California, the nation's largest state, has no such restriction. If California's Supreme Court allows them to marry, homosexual activists plan to flock to the Golden State, get hitched, then go home and flood their home state courts with challenges to their marriage laws. They also plan to go after the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted by Congress and signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. Since 1993, 46 states have moved to strengthen their marriage laws by enacting constitutional amendments or tighter statutes. Many political observers have said that the marriage issue played a major role in the 2004 presidential election.
But it's not a story now? Apart from primary election coverage, CBS gave time only to Brett Favre. ABC had brief stories on Favre, the mortgage crisis, and problems women face from hormone therapy replacement. NBC reported on Favre, a health scandal over re-use of syringes, and also devoted more than four minutes (an eternity on network television news) to a piece about how learning to play an instrument might help kids do better in geometry.
On the morning network programs, the marriage case was ignored, but NBC's Today Show had a feature on ways to keep toy rooms clean and a brief anchor mention of the Empire State Building jumper. ABC's The View included the usual gabfest, highlighted by Joy Behar's observation that Dan Rather is “a sex god.”
The print press did better, with major stories in USA Today, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. All suffered from bias, however, with photos of happy lesbian couples, lots of quotes from gay activists about the inevitability of it all, and no rationale from the marriage law's defenders as to why marriage is uniquely the union of male and female.
If America wakes up one day and finds that marriage has been redefined away from its original, intrinsic meaning as the union of a man and a woman, people might ask, “When did this happen and how come we didn't know about it?”
Or they'll still be talking about the Empire State Building guy or perhaps Dan Rather.
Robert Knight is director of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.