7News uncritically aired Focus on the Family spokeswoman's comments that Ref. I makes "domestic partnerships equal to marriage" while showing clip of gay wedding

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KMGH 7News uncritically aired statements by a Focus on the Family spokeswoman that Referendum I would make "domestic partnerships equal to marriage." But the news report omitted the fact that the ballot measure's language states "a domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one man and one woman."

During a segment about Referendum I, the September 28 broadcast of KMGH's 7News at 10 p.m. uncritically aired statements by Focus on the Family spokeswoman Carrie Gordon Earll that Referendum I would make "domestic partnerships equal to marriage." The segment also twice showed video coverage of a gay couple in a wedding ceremony -- once during a teaser of the segment early in the broadcast that stated "We'll take a look at what it [Referendum I] would mean to Coloradans should it pass," and again following Earll's comment equating domestic partnership to marriage. However, the segment omitted the fact that the ballot language of Referendum I specifically states that "a domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one man and one woman."

Referendum I on the 2006 Colorado November ballot asks voters to enact the "Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act," which would "extend to same-sex couples in a domestic partnership the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted by Colorado law to spouses" if couples meet conditions and criteria to qualify for a domestic partnership license. The measure states that "domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one man and one woman."

During a teaser for a segment about Referendum I, 7News anchor Mike Landess stated, "We'll take a look at what it [Referendum I] would mean to Coloradans should it pass" while showing a video clip of a gay wedding:

In introducing the story about Referendum I, 7News anchor Anne Trujillo noted that Amendment 43 would put "a one-man-and-one-woman definition of marriage in the state constitution" but never noted that if Referendum I passes, the resulting amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes would contain language that states "a domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one-man-one-woman."

Further, 7News reporter Dayle Cedars uncritically aired comments by Earll, who said, "what we're talking about with Referendum I is taking this to the next level and to making domestic partnerships equal to marriage -- and marriage, really little different or better than domestic partnerships." The report then showed the gay wedding video clip for a second time.

In contrast, a September 19 Rocky Mountain News article by reporter Myung Oak Kim, headlined "Marriage line drawn: Voters favor rights, but not weddings for same-sex couples," cited Republican pollster Lori Weigel, who said, "The measure 'explicitly states that this is not marriage ... and that is allowing some people to support both [Referendum I and Amendment 43]'."

Furthermore, the campaign website of Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, the chief backer of Referendum I, displays the slogan, "It's not marriage. It's basic legal rights." Additionally, the 7News segment included video of an interview with campaign manager Sean Duffy, showing a poster behind him displaying that slogan:

From the September 28 broadcast of KMGH's 7News at 10 p.m.:

LANDESS: Next on 7News. One of the hotly debated items on the November ballot is Referendum I. We'll take a look at what it would mean to Coloradans should it pass.

[during this teaser, only a clip of a gay wedding was being aired]

[...]

TRUJILLO: Well, as voters head to the polls this November they are faced with two gay-rights issues. One is Amendment 43, which would essentially ban gay marriage by putting one-man-one-woman definition of marriage in the state constitution.

The second is Referendum I, which allows gay couples to register as domestic partners. So what, really, does Referendum I mean for Coloradans? 7News reporter Dayle Cedars takes us inside the issue.

JOHN CRISCI: The screen was flat-lining. They put the paddles on and he kept flat-lining.

CEDARS: Almost three years after John Crisci lost his partner, Michael, he is just as determined to fight for his rights.

CRISCI: I don't want people to go through what I went through.

CEDARS: Crisci and his partner Michael were working out when Michael collapsed. Instead of rushing to the hospital to be with his partner, Crisci had to go home and get his and Michael's wills. By the time he made it to the hospital, Michael was dead. Crisci believes with Referendum I, he would have been with Michael when he died.

CRISCI: I believe that I would not have to run home and get a will. That would be the first big thing. Because that was the last few minutes I would have had with Michael.

CEDARS: Proponents of Referendum I say it's all about basic legal rights.

SEAN DUFFY: Right now, committed couples, committed same-sex couples, lack basic legal rights. They lack the automatic right to visit a loved one in the hospital, to deal with end-of-life issues, to deal with funeral arrangements.

CARRIE GORDON EARLL: The truth is, that's already available through contract law to any adult in Colorado. My husband and I go to attorney to get a will. My husband and I go to an attorney to get an advance medical directive.

DUFFY: For same-sex couples, the problem is that if you die without a will and you're a gay person, the chances are your property will go to the government rather than to your partner.

CEDARS: But opponents say this is just marriage under a different name.

EARLL: But what we're talking about with Referendum I is taking this to the next level and to making domestic partnerships equal to marriage -- and marriage, really, little better or different than domestic partnerships.

CEDARS: And that reasoning, many say, points to the fact this issue isemotional, not factual.

CRISCI: I believe that's where it's grounded. I believe it's grounded in the Bible and morals. And trust me, Michael had more morals than most people that I talk to.

CEDARS: In Denver, Dale Cedars, 7News.

TRUJILLO: Now, if you would like to read Referendum I in its entirety, go to our website -- TheDenverChannel.com -- and click on "Vote 2006".

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