Same-sex weddings are just so yesterday’s news
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The percentage of Californians who support gay marriage varies from poll to poll, but if the morning news coverage is any indication, we’re pretty much over it as an indication of either the end of the world or the dawn of a new age.
This morning, coverage of the first full day of legalized same-sex marriages was wedged between stories about floods in the Midwest, former Vice President Al Gore’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama and the discovery of a 4-foot-long alligator beneath an SUV in Ohio. The drumbeat of how gay and lesbian couples will be flooding California courthouses, hijacking florists and wedding cake makers and boosting the state’s economy through tourism has filled the media in the last week. But while local ribbon-cutting ceremonies showed up on the network early-morning shows, the color stories about same-sex couples crowding courthouse steps were just that — color stories in which few protesters could be found and dutiful mention of attempts by various groups to stall the mass nuptials seemed, well, dutiful.
And even though there was a celebrity aspect — George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on ‘Star Trek,’ will wed his partner of many years — the ladies of “The View” chose to open their show with conversations about shoe hygiene and sleep issues. Rosie’s really and truly gone, isn’t she?
Part of the reason for the rather laid-back a.m. attitude could simply be a sense of deja vu — the media went through a much more apoplectic news cycle four years ago when gay marriage was briefly legal in San Francisco. Last night’s coverage — courts in five Californian counties began issuing licenses at 5 p.m. Monday — was a bit more high-profile; all of the night-time news programs either led with the story or ran it very near the top of the hour. But even then, most of the stories focused on the marriage of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, whose marriage seemed more notable for their ages (Lyon is 84, Martin 87) than their gender. Officiated by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the ceremony was a carefully chosen testament to tenacity — the women have been partners for 55 years.
Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, also gay marriage activists for many years, celebrated the fruition of their work with quiet joy, minimal fuss and in very low-key suits.
This morning, the mood among newscasters seemed to be one of cautious support — viewers were reminded repeatedly that same-sex marriage will be back on the California ballot in November, which could render all of these weddings null. All the morning news shows did brief in-line interviews with those waiting to get their licenses and all were struck by the lack of protesters, by the sense of anticipatory calm that infused the proceedings. A man in a Satan suit showed up in San Francisco, a lone woman in Norwalk argued that gay marriage chipped away at the family, but for the most part, the proceedings were remarkably calm.
Almost all of the news shows and their websites called for couples to send in photos and accounts of their weddings, along with viewer comments about the issues. While comments condemning same-sex marriage dot these sites, they are outnumbered by testimonials, an evolving national wedding album for gay and lesbian couples.
On Fox 11, there was a clip roundup of Letterman and Leno jokes about same-sex marriage, which poked more fun at the institution than at those hoping to finally engage in it. Even KTLA, which gave the most airtime to the crowds and the controversy, spent far more screen-time at the opening of Toy Story Mania than it did at any courthouse.
And if anyone found it strange to cut from a story about gay marriage to the new Buzz and Woody ride, they didn’t show it.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” said Mark Kriski when the show broke from coverage of same-sex marriage to Disney’s California Adventure, and clearly he was talking about the protests because a new theme park ride? Totally fuss worthy.
-- Mary McNamara