Monday, April 27, 2009


The New York Times Sunday did some unusual juxtiposition in its framing of Iowa's tolerant history by putting tolerance for gay marriage with tolerance for Mormons (Iowans allowed Mormons to cross from Illinois during the exodus to the West and is rightly remembered with grateful hearts by Mormons, who had been driven from neighboring Missouri) in the same article.

The article seems to be saying, Iowans are tolerant people.  They are with the times.

The article never mentions Mormon opposition to gay marriage, but can create an irony for those who know the church's position.  Those reading the story could choose to see Mormon opposition to gay marriage as intolerant and, potentially, ungrateful.  "You Mormons received tolerance, why can't you give the same courtesy back?" is a potential subtext here.

Once the debate about gay marriage is debated with the idea of tolerance as the core, Latter-day Saints have a harder framing challenge -- protecting families and children and traditions -- when debating it publicly.  Tolerance and civil rights have yet to be proven as the best frame on which to debate the issue -- just the most persuasive from a homosexual marriage point of view.

We can never forget that two men marrying changes what marriage is.  Not the least of this change is the powerful fact that two people of the same sex cannot produce children -- the reason for marriage from a societal viewpoint -- without adding a third person to the equation.  We are on the road to making marriage nothing as it becomes, essentially, any relationship between adults.

Framing, which needs more discussion than this short post allows, is widely accepted as an excellent way of understanding how media messages influence people in their opinions.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times did no service to Latter-day Saints in this juxtaposition by its framing choice Sunday.  It should be more careful.

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