Gay marriage discussion the first for new series

KATIE GOODRICH | Asst. News Editor

Leigh Moscowitz from the College of Charleston returned to Butler University last night to talk about how “gays and lesbians were forced into a volatile war with the media.”

“The gay marriage issue has its own implications,” said Moscowitz, a media studies professor. “For better or for worse, it is just like marriage itself.”

Moscowitz came to speak for the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Speaker Series.

Director of the GWSS program Ageeth Sluis said Moscowitz was chosen as the first speaker for a combination of reasons.

“She shared relevant information to start a conversation,” Sluis said. “It was very timely with House Joint Resolution-3 being debated. She also worked here, so we know her.”

Moscowitz attended Indiana University to earn her doctorate. While she was writing her dissertation, she taught at Butler in 2006 and 2007.

In her speech, Moscowitz started with a brief history of events in the gay rights movement to give the audience a frame of reference. She focused on the timeframe of 2003 to 2011 in her research.

“The marriage issue channeled through the media reshaped an entire movement,” Moscowitz said. “Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, you have seen the controversial issue of gay marriage wage war under intensive news coverage.”

She said she watched gay rights transform from a marginal issue to a public spectacle as it entered the entertainment world and the political sphere.

“You will be hard pressed to find an issue with more dramatic change than gay marriage,” Moscowitz said. “All of the coverage of gays and lesbians depicts America as being in the middle of a ‘gay moment.’”

Freshman Katie Koschnick said she thinks the coverage signifies the importance of the issue in our society.

“One hundred years down the line, they are going to look back at this time and know that this is what was happening,” the psychology major said. “Without the media coverage, it would not be prevalent to society.”

Koschnick is taking a GWSS course, and she said the speech related well to the class. Many points were brought up that she did not previously think about, Koschnick said.

“It is difficult for society to grasp the amount of change,” she said. “There is more than just marriage to think about.”

Moscowitz talked about how marriage rights have become the central focus, although there are many other issues to be discussed.

“Media has made marriage the only focus,” Moscowitz said. “The movement is using marriage as an on-ramp to a highway of rights like AIDS funding, trans(gender) rights, and laws preventing job discrimination and bullying.”

Gay marriage is an issue fought on political and legal arenas, but it is also played out on national and local news, Moscowitz said.

“There are clearly images of gay and lesbian couples,” she said. “But that does not necessarily mean progress is imminent.”

B-roll, footage played behind a news report, helped create a hierarchy of good gay versus bad gay, Moscowitz said.

“America is going through a de-gaying of gay marriage,” she said. “Activists found it hard to interrupt the heterosexual news corporation. The movement is trying to soften and normalize gay marriage.”

A shift in coverage of gay marriage occurred after the vote on Proposition 8 in California, Moscowitz said.

At the beginning of her research, she said more than twice the people opposed gay marriage than supported the issue. Now the country stands almost evenly divided.

“I have always been interested in media and social change,” Moscowitz said. “But I had no idea of the major transformation coming. In some ways, I got lucky.”