On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press reported on a rally held at the Calder Plaza in conjunction with the national “Freedom to Marry” week. The event–held to promote marriage equality–featured a group of local clergy who support gay marriage. However, in covering the event, the Grand Rapids Press largely emphasized anti-gay voices. Rather than covering the event specifically, Press reporter Ted Roelofs decided to make the story about the so-called “West Michigan divide over gay rights.”
In the article “Clergy rally to support gay marriage,” Roelofs focused the debate over the decision made by WOOD TV 8 not to air an anti-gay special after being pressured by activists. In the article, Roelofs featured two quotes from the Rev. Frederick Wooden of Fountain Street Church–a gay positive voice–while he included six quotes from anti-gay voices. Those included the Rev. Dale Cross of Abundant Life Church of God who argued that Christians just want “the practicing homosexual” to consider what their choices mean for “their eternity.” A quote from an American Family Association (AFA) letter and a Plainfield Township resident who said that the media would rather please “the radical homosexual” rather than explore “the medical and mental health” issues involved in homosexuality. Not surprisingly, the Press never explored this claim, instead allowing the anti-gay comment to stand unchallenged.
While the story is upsetting for its over reliance on anti-gay voices, its made all the more upsetting because the frame Roelofs uses–the debate over the anti-gay special–was rejected by the rally’s organizers. Roelofs even notes this in the article:
“Wooden said it was coincidence the Calder Plaza event was scheduled the same week as the WOOD-TV programming battle heated up the local debate over gay rights.”
Yet that didn’t stop him from using a frame that drummed up “controversy” and allowed space for anti-gay comments.