10 MONTROSE VOICE / SEPTEMBER 27, 1985
How Did the Press Handle 21.06 Decision?
By Mark Blazek
Montrose Voice Austin Correspondent
Most gay men and women who have lived
in Texas longer than a year or so know
certain major daily newspapers in this
state sustain homophobic influences,
though this editorial bias is often interwoven as to pass as reportage.
The January referendum in Houston
showed many—some for the first time—
how homophobia is clearly entrenched
where it should not be.
In a similiar way, the August 26 decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
gave us another example of how the established press handles, or mishandles, as
the case may be, a gay issue.
Most editors recognized the court's decision as representing a crossroads which
the gay community last met on the death
of Harvey Milk, and, before then, at the
Stonewall riots. Suddenly, our society's
relative quiet tolerance of the gay lifestyle
has turned to declared hostility in the
guise of "implementing morality," and
good editors understood the potential miscalculation behind the court's decision.
As a result, this news story was run on
the front page of most dailies.
• The press could not agree on the
numbers. The Associated Press incorrectly reported the decision was eight to
seven. Most other sources properly
Look in the Greater
Monthly Bank Draff
reported nine to seven. The AP also incorrectly reported the crime carries a $500
fine, in addition to a possible jail term. The
crime actually carries a possible $200 fine
and a jail term.
• The mainstream press continues to
call us "homosexuals" despite years of
protests by gay activists and the fact that
few of our gay publications or organizations include the word homosexual in their
title. Establishment still has a rough time
using the preferred term "gay."
• Most publications ran headlines similar to the Austin American-Statesman
("Banning of Sodomy Upheld"). The Corpus Christi Caller, the Fort Worth Star-
Telegram, the San Antonio Express News,
and the Waco Tribune-Herald, among
many others, all included the rather
ambiguous and antiseptic phrase "Texas
sodomy law" in their headlines.
• Praise to the Houston Post for stating
the issue much more clearly with the headline "Federal Court Rules Against Homosexuals. The Post reporter, Eduardo Paz
Martinez, wrote the finest lead, explaining
the result of the court's ruling as "outlawing homosexual activity and making the
private sexual lives of gay Texans illegal."
• The Dallas Times-Herald deserves special mention for amplifying the issue with
an additional story titled "Foes agree on
one thing: Legal battle is not over."
• Most editors highlighted the fact that
the court used "the past seven centuries"
of "objection to homosexual conduct" as
the prime reason for its decision. Such an
explanation as the court's is ludicrous on
its face, and no further editorial comment
was needed. (And most obervers agree
that the U.S. Supreme Court will be
required to concoct a far better reason
than tradition for continued oppression of
• Most editors at least intimated AIDS
figured prominently in the judges' decision but also pointed out the court made no
mention of AIDS in its ruling, and
• Unfortunately, only gay publications
suggested that the court's decision smacks
of politics by citing the political affiliations of the judges along with the way in
which they voted.
But, perhaps most importantly, the
reporting of this news illustrates, once
again, the real inability of the masses to
understand gay love. The issue is not a
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"sodomy law." The Fifth Circuit Court
may think they are legislating behavior,
but they are actually suppressing expressions of love. There is a serious difference,
as only gay men and women can sadly
The press has failed in its responsibility
to communicate the enormity of the
court's shortsightedness on our evolving
social nature. More gay writers need to be
assigned to write the news on gay issues in
order that a naive public can understand,
through the subtleties of language, that at
the core of decisions such as the Fifth Cir-
cuirt Court's sits, pure, simple, unadulterated love. And tampering with such a rare
commodity is a very dangerous game.
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