Traditional Values Coalition's Lafferty used gay marriage bans to claim "majority of Americans" object to PBS cartoon


Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the conservative "church lobby" group the Traditional Values Coalition, appeared on MSNBC and ABC to criticize an episode of the PBS program Postcards from Buster titled "Sugartime!" in which an animated rabbit visits real-life children whose parents are a lesbian couple. Lafferty claimed that her opposition to the episode was "mainstream," and she suggested that "the majority of Americans" believe homosexuality is "inappropriate and immoral and invalid." But polling data contradicts Lafferty's claims.

To support her claim that her opposition to the episode was "mainstream," Lafferty referred to recent state-level measures banning same-sex marriage, claiming on the January 27 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

LAFFERTY: The American people in California voted overwhelmingly against homosexual marriage. Other states have done that as well, not just conservative states. The American people don't want their children mixed into this subject. ... The position that I've taken -- the position that the Secretary of Education has taken -- is a mainstream position.

Lafferty extended that argument during a discussion with Karen Pike and Gillian Piper, parents of the children featured in the Postcards from Buster episode, on the January 28 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

PIKE: How am I supposed to tell my daughter that the upper echelons of our government thinks that we are inappropriate and immoral and invalid, and other kids shouldn't know about her life?

LAFFERTY: It's the majority of Americans that believe that, not just our government.

In citing state-level measures banning same-sex marriage as evidence that her opposition to the episode is "mainstream," Lafferty did not address the fact that the program, which features an animated rabbit visiting real children from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, is not about same-sex marriage. As a January 28 The New York Times article noted: "Like the grown-ups in most of the episodes, the lesbian mothers in the 'Sugartime!' segment are mainly background."

While national polling shows that a majority of Americans oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage, in most cases it also contradicts Lafferty's claim that "the majority of Americans" think gays are "inappropriate and immoral and invalid." On April 11, 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported that "[g]ays and lesbians have experienced a dramatic rise in acceptance over the last two decades" and noted that its poll, conducted March 27 through March 30, 2004, found that 61 percent "say a homosexual would make a good role model for a child" and that 65 percent "say they can accept gays and lesbians living together." A Gallup poll (subscription only) conducted January 3 through January 5, 2005, found that 30 percent of Americans believe that "acceptance of homosexuality in this nation today is about right" and that an additional 29 percent feel homosexuality should "be more widely accepted." Additionally, a Gallup poll (subscription only) conducted May 2 through May 4, 2004, found that 54 percent of Americans "feel that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle" while 42 percent do not. A Pew poll conducted October 15 through October 19, 2003, found that 55 percent "believes it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior," but also reported that 76 percent "say they do not mind being around gays" and that "a majority of Americans (54 percent) feel that gay and lesbian couples can be as good parents as heterosexual couples."

PBS said it decided not to distribute the episode to its affiliates "a couple of hours before" it was criticized by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, according to a Washington Post article. The Los Angeles Times reported on January 28 that "[a]lthough PBS won't distribute an episode of a children's program featuring a gay couple, local affiliates may air it."

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Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
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