Michael Crawford

Is Marriage Under Attack?

Filed By Michael Crawford | November 21, 2007 7:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Brian Williams, gay marriage, gay rights, LGBT

That's what Brian Wlliams of NBC Nightly News claimed on his show on November 19th:

An update including responses from Brian Williams and GLAAD after the jump.

He doesn't say exactly what marriage is under attack from, but as Jeremy at Good As You points out, his comment fits nicely into the anti-gay conservative frame that evangelical activists are are promoting about gays wanting to destroy the "sanctity of marriage.

"Marriage is being harmed by a lot of things like serial adulterers like Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich, economic pressures that make it difficult for couples to stay together and the drive-through marriage culture of Las Vegas. Same-sex couples wishing to marry have nothing to do with those things.

Gay Americans should be applauded for fighting so hard for the right to marry as some heterosexuals like Britney Spears change who they are married as often as the change their hair extensions.

Say it with me Brian, "Same-sex couples are not a threat to marriage."


Williams wrote a dismissive post for his blog regarding the questions that bloggers have raised about his "marriage is under attack" statement. He mentions 'well-intentioned people" who have attacked him for saying that marriage is under attack.

I was the recipient today of several emails from well-intentioned people, telling me I was being attacked in parts of the blogosphere for something I wrote and said on the air in last night’s broadcast. It was a closing piece about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrating their 60th anniversary. I noted this accomplishment, especially in this era when, as I put it, marriage seems “under attack” as an institution. My meaning? Our national divorce rate, which is currently somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood. In fact, one comment shared with me today came from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, who said, “It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack — by straight people. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement.”

Its great that Williams has stated in his blog post that he was not referring to gay people, but he is an experienced news professional who uses words for a living. He should know the importance of being as clear as possible when making statements such as “marriage is under attack.”

As GLAAD president Neil Guiliano pointed out in a letter to Williams:

Your blog entry today confirms that your use of the phrase on last night’s broadcast was not in any way intended to disparage gay couples, and that expression is appreciated. However, the primary issue is whether a phrase that has been used predominantly in an ugly anti-gay context can be used in another, tangentially related context (here, marriage in a general sense) without invoking the stereotypes that imbrue its common usage.

The phrase ”marriage under attack” — like “defense of marriage,” which youuse elsewhere in your blog entry — is a meme designed and used by far-right anti-gay activists to scare people into opposing legal protections for gaycouples. Media professionals who talk about marriage-related issues in their reporting should simply and factually discuss them, rather than uncritically repeating rhetoric calculated to make people feel threatened by and afraid of loving, committed couples.

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I was going to say it couldn't have anything to do with the deteriorating state of the economy that causes people to have to work crap jobs, possibly multiple crap jobs, and have them hating life and already primed to be cross with their spouses when they come home, not to mention the attendant financial troubles, which are the number one cause of marital strife in America...

but you kind of already said it for me.

Nah, it must be the gays, because a conservative would never lie or otherwise distort the facts. Just like when we went into Iraq to take away their WMDs because they were such a threat (unlike Pakistan, which has nukes but would never ever harbor a proliferator like A.Q. Khan because they're our sacred ally).

Whether he meant the divorce rate or gay marriage (which is debatable), it just shows how the thought that "the institution of marriage is falling apart due to gays" is such a part of mainstream society now. It's part of the dialogue even when it has nothing to do with the news story being told.

Sigh… We have so much work and education to do.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 21, 2007 11:09 AM

You're right Waymon. We have got a lot of education to do.