Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage dominated the news on Monday and was only bolstered by Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s blunt and unexpected support for the issue during an early appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Reporters quickly turned their focus to the White House, where they grilled Press Secretary Jay Carney on whether President Obama has evolved to embrace the freedom to marry and derided the administration for adopting a “cynical” strategy of protecting the marriage rights of all people without openly supporting the right of gay people to marry.
A ThinkProgress analysis of cable news coverage of the Biden story from Monday at 6:00 AM to 11:59 PM using TV Eyes shows that while MSNBC ran the most segments with the word “marriage,” conservative firebrand Fox News also devoted substantial airtime to the story. Almost without exception, the coverage criticized the administration for obfuscating on the issue without challenging Biden’s support for same-sex marriage or debating the policy merits of the issue.
Even Fox News — which ran the only segment in which a guest claimed that marriage equality would lead to a nation where “one person can marry 3 people” — focused on the politics of the debate and avoided labeling Biden or other Democrats who have embraced same-sex marriage as extremists. The network typically eschews LGBT-friendly stories altogether:
The tenor of the conversation is in sharp contrast to the hysterical and often times offensive remarks made about gay people during the 2004 election — when the Bush campaign sought to employ marriage is a way to rally its conservative electoral base — and may reflect the popular shift towards equality.
For instance, a recent survey from Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that support for marriage equality has increased substantially since 2004, with 47 percent of Americans now favoring same-sex marriage — up from 31 percent in 2004. Pew also found that for the first time, “there is as much strong support as strong opposition to gay marriage. In the current survey, 22 percent say they strongly support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally; an identical percentage (22 percent) strongly opposes gay marriage. In 2008, there was about twice as much strong opposition to as strong support for gay marriage (30 percent vs. 14 percent).”
This growing public sentiment for the freedom to marry, the burgeoning political support for the issue, and the tepid tone of the media conversation all reinforce the notion that the freedom to marry has become a mainstream political position that — while still rife with political pitfalls among some constituents — is now treated as a legitimate establishment view.