If I ever have children, I'll be able to tell them about the day in May 2012 when the President of the United States finally endorsed marriage equality. Unfortunately, I'll also be able to tell them that the leader of a hate group was given a prominent platform in the wake of the president's announcement to say on national television that same-sex marriage “runs counter to nature” and threatens “religious freedom,” “the family,” and “the education of our children.”
In November 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center determined that the Family Research Council (FRC) is an “anti-gay hate group” because it seeks to “defam[e] gays and lesbians” by making “false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.” Given FRC's record of spreading bogus information, it's risky for news organizations committed to accuracy to give FRC access to their audience. Nevertheless, FRC has repeatedly been presented as a legitimate and mainstream voice by every major cable news network.
Today both CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley and CBS' Face the Nation hosted FRC president Tony Perkins to comment on same-sex marriage and presidential politics. On CNN Perkins was balanced by ... Gary Bauer, another evangelical conservative who shares Perkins' anti-LGBT views. Perkins said that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a matter of “defending the family, the cornerstone of civilization,” adding, “it's more than marriage. It's about the education of our children. It's about religious freedom. It's about public accommodations.”
On Face The Nation, Perkins was outnumbered on the panel by those who support marriage equality, but he was never actually confronted about his group's record or the lack of evidence for his claims about dire consequences of same-sex marriages. Host Bob Schieffer did not challenge Perkins' claim that parents will “lose the right to determine what their children are taught in school. Religious organizations forced to recognize or allow their facilities to be used for weddings such as this.” During the segment Perkins said we should “allow all sides to have the debate” and, addressing Schieffer, added, “I'm glad that's what you're doing here this morning.”
By contrast, some media figures including a few of Crowley's colleagues at CNN, have apparently recognized the absurdity of dancing around the house of cards underlying Perkins' views. Just as history will not judge Perkins well, neither will it be kind to those in the news media who facilitated his struggle on behalf of discrimination.