- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A month after the Supreme Court decision legalizing sodomy and Canada’s recognition of same-sex “marriage,” analysts say an almost casual acceptance of homosexuality pervades the media.

Last night, “Boy Meets Boy,” a dating game for homosexual men where some straight men are thrown into the mix, aired on NBC’s Bravo cable channel.

This came on the heels of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” another new Bravo show that last week got bumped up to prime time Thursday, the same night that NBC airs its homosexual-themed sitcom “Will & Grace.”

“Queer Eye” features a group of homosexual men giving a fashion makeover to a heterosexual man.

“It was horrible,” Matthew Felling, media analyst for the Center for Media and Public Affairs, said of the new Bravo show. “It showed a gay guy running through a straight guy’s closet pulling out hockey jerseys. It was almost an ‘Amos and Andy’ angle towards homosexuality.”

But David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual advocacy group, said the public wants entertainment with an edge.

“It’s not like NBC and Bravo are doing public service announcements for the gay community,” he said. “If there’s not a market for these programs, they’d not be on the air. And ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?’ was more a threat to heterosexual marriage than any gay program.”

According to the Nexis database, 350 stories about homosexuality appeared in major papers from May 26 to June 25. That rose to 537 stories from June 26 to July 25.

Topics included the Canadian and U.S. court decisions, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s decision early this month to extend its nondiscrimination policy to cover homosexuals, and the June 7 election of the nation’s first homosexual Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.

On Monday, the New York Post announced the establishment of the nation’s first high school for homosexual students in New York.

“What happened last month [with the court decisions] ratified an attitude change that had already happened,” said Andrew Tyndall, founder of www.tyndallreport.com, which analyzes network TV coverage. “The culture had already changed. The last thing to change was the law.”

Homosexuality ranked fifth in topics covered on the three major network prime-time weeknight news shows June 23 to 27, he said, rating 13 minutes total.

Critics don’t argue that homosexuality should be criminalized or considered abnormal, he added, “but whether gay behavior should be considered no different than heterosexual behavior, that is definitely not resolved.”

But there has been a backlash against homosexuality, according to a poll released yesterday by USA Today. Whereas 60 percent of adults polled in early May thought homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48 percent think so now. The survey also found that opposition to same-sex “marriages” had risen to 57 percent, the most opposition since the question was first posed in 2000.

“People feel there is a wave coming, so there’s a resistance,” said Tim Graham, an analyst with the Media Research Center. “People ask if anyone is going to fight. This White House won’t. The Bush administration knows what the media hot buttons are.”

Mr. Felling said that in the past month, “homosexual America has become mainstreamed.

“This poll may reflect a discomfort with that mainstreamization. Although there may be a growing tolerance, we don’t want it in our faces all the time.”

He added, “The media might have overestimated the public’s interest in homosexual issues. They might have mistaken the tolerance for homosexuality with an interest in their issues.”

Newsweek headlined its July 7 cover story, “Is Gay Marriage Next?” The magazine published two versions of that cover, one with a photo of a male couple and another with a photo of a female couple.

On July 23, The Washington Post for the first time ran alongside notices of heterosexual weddings an announcement and photo of the “marriage” of Deb Price and Joyce Murdoch in Toronto last month. The two women met in 1985 while editors at The Post.

“What’s happening in Washington is going to happen city by city around the country,” Mr. Tyndall said. “The wake-up call is when the big metro paper does this.”

Even staid publications are joining the trend. Bride’s magazine features a full-page article about same-sex unions in its September-October edition.

“It’s really important that this magazine in particular has taken the step to talk about the issue,” Cathy Renna, news media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), told Gay.com. She added that she used advice from Bride’s in planning her lesbian-union ceremony later this year.

The last time homosexual issues occupied such a spotlight was in 1993, Mr. Graham said, when the Clinton administration pushed to allow homosexuals to serve in the military. A homosexual rights “March on Washington” in the spring of 1993 became the subject of a video distributed by Christian conservative groups. The issue helped Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate in 1994, Mr. Graham said.

“There’s this assumption that we’re going in this 100 percent pro-gay direction and no one’s going to stop it,” Mr. Graham said. “The media is trying to establish a sense of inevitability, which causes anxiety in people.”

Broadcasters and publishers appear to be sympathetic to homosexual causes, judging from the guest list of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, a 1,100-member group having its annual convention in September at a Hollywood hotel.

The association did not return telephone calls for comment.

Scheduled speakers include CNN anchor Judy Woodruff, CBS chairman Les Moonves, Black Entertainment Television executive producer Will Wright and Los Angeles Times publisher John Puerner.

“Hollywood and Broadway have always attracted a homosexual element,” Mr. Graham said. “Do the demographics. These folks are low on religious observance, highly educated, and they think that what they think is what all highly educated people think.”

Mr. Smith dismissed the concerns, saying “God created the remote control, so we don’t have to watch [such] programs.”

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