The Proposition 8 trial, which tested the California ballot initiative taking away the gay right to marry, was instructive to me about this, because it was the first time I’ve seen multiple social conservatives queried, in a systematic way, about what they believe about gay marriage and the family and why they believe it. So far, their arguments haven’t been convincing to judges (the case comes before the Supreme Court in March), but it helped us all understand their concerns. And when we journalists help our readers better understand everyone’s concerns, good things can happen. For example, our legislators can better protect everyone’s equality as they craft legislation. After all, social conservatives are part of the American fabric, too.
So what should journalists do? We can’t expect that they will be personally against gay marriage, especially younger ones. They are growing up in a world where they know gay people and where more and more Americans support gay marriage — 49 percent do overall, and the statistic is 73 percent for Americans under 30. And we shouldn’t expect them to engage in “he-said-she-said” journalism, where every positive gay marriage story is interrupted by a sour-grapes social conservative saying that being gay is wrong or that gay marriage is wrong, especially since so many of those claims are unsupported by evidence.
Instead, we should give social conservatives room in our newspapers and websites to express their views through opinion pieces and reporting. We should write news stories about their organizations and features profiling them. We should let them explain who they are and what they believe and why they believe it in a full, comprehensive way. And we should be sure to include them in feature stories in other sections as a matter of course, just as we do with gays and lesbians. Why not include them as regularly as gays in the Post’s matchmaking section Date Lab? Social conservatives want to marry, too.