The New York Times is editorially an ally of LGBT equality. However, from time to time reporters and columnists exercise terrible judgment.
On July 3 (July 5 in print), Liam Stack and Elizabeth Dias wrote a piece titled: Why the Supreme Court Opening Could Affect Gay Marriage as Well as Abortion. They try mightily to fulfill their journalistic obligation to be balanced. I am wondering: If the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came under attack, would they interview David Duke? How about a Neo-Nazi? After all, they want to be fair.
The piece itself has some questionable judgment but my primary concern is who they interviewed. Those folks in order of appearance:
- Stacey Long Simmons, advocacy director for the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force
- Tony Perkins, leader of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council
- Mat Staver, leader of Liberty Council, an anti-LGBT hate group
- Rachel Tiven, president of Lambda Legal
- Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality
- Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT hate group
That might appear to be a balanced presentation of issues with three from each “side.” However, it creates a false equivalence. I will allow the Southern Poverty Law Center to define a hate group:
The Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate group as an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.
The organizations on our hate group list vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity – prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines.
That applies to Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel. The three LGBT advocacy organizations represented in the piece do not attack or malign anyone. Nor do they misrepresent the characteristics of anyone or any class of people. They certainly do not vilify anyone and no one has called them bigoted.
The New York Times could and should have offset the difference by noting that the three groups are included in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups. Mr. Stack and Ms. Dias lacked either the decency or the sensibility to do so. Their readers deserve the whole truth about people they present in their stories.
The bigger problem with this is that the New York Times is “the paper of record.” They are conveying legitimacy onto groups that are best defined by their bigotry. In doing so, they elevate the status of these groups which enables them to raise more money. They, in turn, use that money to further oppress LGBT people.