Keeping the Facts Straight On Gay Marriage, Part Deux

The New York Times slipped up again today on the details of a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

As we pointed out yesterday, a story in the Times on Sunday flatly stated that the proposed amendment allows state legislatures to recognize civil unions. But as The Washington Post reported yesterday, opponents of the measure argue that it does no such thing.

Today’s Times makes the same mistake, in a run-down on the legal implications of the whole marriage brouhaha. Adam Liptak reports that “a spokesman for [the amendment’s sponsor] Ms. Musgrave said the amendment would let states make their own decisions about civil unions.”

That’s slightly better than stating the assertion as fact, as Kirkpatrick had done. But Liptak still doesn’t give us any hint of the fact that many opponents of the amendment believe it would not allow states to make their own decisions on civil unions — and he’s supposed to be writing a story examining the legal implications of the whole gay marriage issue.

ABC News last night did even worse (as an alert reader pointed out to us). According to Terry Moran, reporting on “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings,” “Republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, is the lead sponsor of a Federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but allow states to establish civil unions for gay couples.” (italics ours).

Neither Moran nor anchorman Peter Jennings explained that what they were offering viewers is the interpretation of the bill’s sponsor, one that is not universally shared.

Zachary Roth

Late Update, 4:15 PM: repeats the mistake made by the Times and ABC News, flatly declaring that, “The proposed federal amendment would forbid states from allowing gay marriages but permit them to pass laws allowing civil unions.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.