Sometimes, it’s harder than you might think to keep track of whether someone is a hugely offensive and insane anti-gay bigot. Although it may seem obvious to us that Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and Tony Perkins are prejudiced blowhards whose insight on issues like gay marriage is limited to their sincere desire to restrict the rights of their fellow citizens, but to those who don’t follow gay issues in the media as closely as our community tends to, they can seem like completely legitimate commentators, albeit on the conservative end of the spectrum.
Which is why GLAAD has undertaken the Commentator Accountability Project, which is trying to make sure that the mainstream media understands they aren’t impartial “experts” to be consulted on gay marriage any more than Fred Phelps is. People like Tony Perkins have little to no professional credentials, yet as Queerty points out, are often booked on middling-to-legitimate talk shows to give opinions like “They say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a risk to children.”
To those who are concerned with gay issues in the media and in their own lives, the assertion that “the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a risk to children” is immediately suspect — what research? Whose children? What does “posing a risk” mean, exactly? But when Tony Perkins said that on Hardball, no one asked those questions. Because, as GLAAD puts it, “journalists or producers who are on deadline often don’t have the time to dig into the histories of a commentator,” which means that both media figures and their audiences can remain unaware that the supposed “facts” they’re getting about the gay community came, in that instance, from the American College of Pediatricians, who don’t produce peer-reviewed research and who count George Rekers among their chief researchers. People who are watching Tony Perkins on Hardball don’t necessarily know that his group, the Family Research Council, also supports the Day of Truth, a response to the Day of Silence in which queer high schoolers are informed of the sinfulness of their identities, or that Perkins has also claimed that there’s no link between anti-gay attitudes and queer teen suicides.
To combat this, GLAAD aims to make the full picture on each of the commentators listed on their website available to journalists and media professionals, so that they have no excuse to not know whose opinion they’re soliciting on issues that affect the queer community. (They also ask that if you see any of their targeted commentators in your local media, you contact GLAAD via the CAP website.) GLAAD’s Aaron McQuade notes that “‘accountability’ does not necessarily mean keeping these people out of the media. But if a reporter is interviewing someone who insinuates that his or her political opponent is controlled by the devil, it’s the reporter’s journalistic responsibility to put that person’s opinion in perspective.” And accountability doesn’t just apply to the journalists involved; it’s also a way of holding people like Maggie Gallagher accountable for their actions. Following the discussion of gay issues in the media reveals that there’s a shocking amount of completely baseless claims one can make about gay people with little to no consequences except, of course, setting back the public perception of queer people every time they’re allowed airtime. Wouldn’t it be nice if they at least had to be honest about that?