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Prop. 8 Federal Lawsuit Begins, Cue Right-Wing Media Hysteria

This week in a San Francisco Federal District Court, a legal odd couple will be on display. Attorney David Boies, who represented Al Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous 2000 case ofBush v. Gore, and conservative attorney Ted Olson, who represented George W. Bush, are joining forces to overturn California’s Proposition 8. It will be their contention that the initiative passed by voters in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in the Golden State violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, singles out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status, and discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.

Regardless of which side prevails, experts agree the case is likely to be appealed all the way to the highest court in the land.

Cue right-wing media hysteria and homophobia.

Few other issues whip the conservative media chattering class into a frenzy like the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. This unprecedented federal legal challenge is unlikely to be any different.

With hardly an exception, the folks at Fox News have been party to one homophobic attack on the gay community after another — oddly hypocritical behavior for a network that sponsored the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association‘s annual conference just a few short months ago.

The network’s highest-rated host, Bill O’Reilly, has repeatedly attacked marriage equality, claiming that the simple act of two people in love making it official could open the door to people to marry “a turtle,” “a goat,” “a duck,” or “a dolphin.” This coming from a man who once famously quacked, “I think everybody’s got to relax on all this gay stuff.” Relax, indeed — O’Reilly has even baselessly fearmongered that legal protections for LGBT people could, in fact, protect pedophiles. A dated, demonstrably false, and hateful charge to be sure.

He’s hardly alone at the conservative cable outlet.

Fox News’ conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Glenn Beck, playing with dolls to make his point, inexplicably argued that marriage equality could lead to “triad” marriages, and the factually challenged morning crew at Fox & Friends hammered home the same erroneous point. They also claimed that increased support for marriage equality in public polls was due not to softening attitudes on gays and lesbians by the American people, but to “being politically correct.”

Then there’s Sean Hannity who once allowed right-wing pundit Ann Coulter to go unchallenged on his nationally syndicated radio program when she declared, “I don’t think there’s anything offensive about any variation of faggy, faggotry, faggot, fag.”

Radio host Rush Limbaugh, despite having been married three times, is a steadfast defender of what the right calls “traditional marriage.” El Rushbo once compared the Iowa Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality to “the Soviets,” and while discussing President Obama and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, he has routinely littered his screeds with juvenile anti-LGBT innuendo.

There is perhaps no voice more homophobic in the media today than that of Michael Savage (née Weiner), the Number 3 radio host in America, who was fired by MSNBC in 2003 for describing a caller as a “sodomite” and telling him to “get AIDS and die.” Savage also lost his contract with Creative Artists Agency (two days after the exclusive talent firm announced it had signed him) in the wake of a rant over singer Melissa Etheridge in which he declared, “I don’t like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. … I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it’s child abuse.” For Savage, these comments are par for the course, all part of his almost-daily homophobic hate speech.

It’s no better online, where writers for WorldNetDaily have endorsed a proposed Uganda law that would permit the death penalty simply for being gay and has led a perplexing anti-gay which hunt — the later being a pet cause of a man who once called a judge a “crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”

The list could go on ad infinitum, and perhaps that is the point. Without fail, conservatives in the media will savagely attack the LGBT community whenever given the opening, and this is just such an opening.

With this week’s federal case to decide the constitutionality of Proposition 8 already garnering worldwide media attention, the mainstream press will have ample opportunity to counter the malicious, hateful rhetoric spewed by right-wing outlets and personalities big and small with a healthy dose of reality-based journalism.

Should they fail in that endeavor, it will not be forgotten.

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.

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Karl Frisch

Karl Frisch