We’re a day late with this bit of recognition, but here goes.
On June 1, 2014, a same sex marriage law passed the previous fall went into effect across the state of Illinois. Passed over opposition and claims it violated religious freedoms, he law was the end result of a years-long march by advocates. Similar legislation—either for marriage or civil unions—had been introduced annually since 2007. Passage finally undid a state ban on same-sex marriage in effect since 1996.
Not that people waited until June 1. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued a ruling in February that allowed couples in Cook County to go ahead with their nuptials. David Orr, the county clerk, famously kept his offices open late on Friday, February 21, to handle the extra business. Champaign County’s county clerk, Gordy Hulten, cited the Cook County ruling and followed Cook County’s lead five days later. A smattering of other counties followed. Just over a year after the Illinois law went into effect, the US Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage, or refusal to recognize such unions, violated the 14th Amendment.
Opponents of same-sex marriage blamed many enemies for the new legislation, and the news media, as usual, sat near the top of the list. It may have been true that coverage of gays and lesbians became more sympathetic prior to the bill’s passage.
But not that much prior. As one source we know could tell you, the media of the previous decade made it very clear the Powers That Be considered same-sex marriage very different than “real” marriage:
The March 10, 2004, edition of 60 Minutes also defined gay marriage in terms of difference from the heterosexual institution when reporter Bob Simon described a scene outside the San Francisco city hall, proclaiming, “There are plenty of brides and plenty of grooms, but they don’t marry each other!” Later in the program Simon defined gay marriage as a “sudden and radical change to the culture.”
The inside spread of the Newsweek cover story that begs the question “Is gay marriage next?” features similar dueling images. The dominant image is of two women–one donning a traditional white wedding dress and veil, the other in a black tuxedo-like pantsuit–engaged in a passionate open-mouth kiss while onlooking supporters cheer and clap. The dueling image to the left is of an older white-haired man, holding a sign that reads, “Homosexuality, Hellfire, Sin,” the words themselves graphically illustrated to appear as though they are on fire. In the foreground of the image, a blurred figure of a police officer once again subtly highlights the presence of state authority. As a result, homophobic imagery and discriminatory language from conservative groups were given a stage, positioned as credible opposing viewpoints.