Fox News' restrained coverage of the Supreme Court's marriage equality decisions regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reveals how dramatically the network has shifted in its coverage of the marriage equality fight.
Following the Supreme Court's June 26 decisions to strike down Section 3 of DOMA and dismiss the Prop 8 case due to lack of standing, Fox News ran several segments asking guests to weigh in on the historic cases. Rather than giving into right-wing hysterics about marriage equality, however, Fox's coverage seemed to shy away from its typical culture war commentary.
During a segment on Happening Now, Fox's Jenna Lee explicitly asked her guests not to get into a debate about the merits of same-sex marriage:
LEE: We have a lot of issues to work through here. I don't want to start a conversation on the merits of same-sex marriage or not. What I'd like to talk about today is the role of government. Because that is a theme we see in a lot of our big stories, whether it's immigration or health care or anything else. It seems as if the Supreme Court today really made a big statement about that relationship. Sally, you just wrote a piece that just went up on FoxNews.com fits in perfectly with this titled, “What same-sex marriage decision tells us about America and the Constitution.” What do you think it tells us?
A segment during America Live did feature hate group leader Tony Perkins, but it also included prominent gay rights activist and former Equality Matters president Richard Socarides, who easily debunked Perkins' fear mongering of the Supreme Court's rulings.
During the June 26 edition of The Five, the co-hosts seemed almost at a loss for how to characterize the decisions, with Eric Bolling half-heartedly suggesting the Supreme Court should have refused to hear the Prop 8 case in the first place and Greg Gutfeld eventually applauding the decisions, painting it as “a huge conservative victory”:
That sentiment continued during Special Report with Bret Baier, with panelists acknowledging that the decisions were a major victory for the gay rights movement but failed to offer serious criticisms of the Court's rationale.
Fox's coverage wasn't without its flaws, of course. Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes claimed the Supreme Court had "overruled God" and the network has since invited homophobe Ben Shapiro to attack the decisions as examples of judicial tyranny. And Fox is by no means out of the business of demonizing LGBT people.
Still, the unwillingness of Fox News personalities to immediately lash out at the Supreme Court's decisions is notable for a network that appears increasingly unwilling to continue its fight against marriage equality.