Posted By Eric Ethington on December 27, 2013
There’s been some controversy this week, after an internal memo from Mormon-owned TV station KSL in Utah leaked out showing management directing staff not to show footage of gay couples kissing.
“Please avoid using kissing footage in your stories about Amendment 3,” reads the email, apparently written by Managing Editor Keri Wilcox. That’s a tall order considering every news station and newspaper in Utah has been filled with pictures of happily married couples for the past week.
Mormon-owned news outlets have some history with either censoring LGBT content from their viewers, or going out of their way to give credibility and voice to those who are opposed to equal rights for all citizens.
Remember the stink last year when KSL announced they had decided to censor “The New Normal,” a new NBC show that featured gay parents? There was also the time when the Deseret News, a major Utah newspaper owned by the Mormon Church, posted a story that used an anonymous internet commenter from a different site as an official source, using their quote about how gays are like alcoholics.
The Salt Lake Tribune posted a quick article a couple of days ago, as this rumor started going around, which quoted KSL’s executive vice president of news saying that no such policy banning footage of gay couples kissing exists.
But Seth Bracken, who used to work for the Deseret Digital Media Team which includes both DeseretNews.com and KSL.com, says otherwise. “When I worked on the Deseret News Web team we were not allowed to show photos of gay couples kissing. It was official and written policy,” Seth tells me.
Seth even provided a few other examples of KSL and Deseret News censoring affection between gay couples. “For example, we were banned from acknowledging that “8: The Mormon Proposition” [a 2010 documentary about the Mormon Church's involvement in California's Prop8] existed, even when we were listing all other Sundance Film Festival information. When we listed movie times and locations we were not supposed to list the information for ’8: The Mormon Proposition’. If I recall, some editorial information was used (in stories).” Seth says some info about the film made it online anyways, but it was against policy for it to happen.
Bracken also detailed one other instance of censorship, during the several “kiss-in” protests in downtime Salt Lake between 2009-2011, where gay couples shared a quick smooch in public. According to Bracken, it was a big challenge for the digital editors to find photos of the protest without actually showing any of the kisses themselves.
How the media portrays LGBT people matters. It would be almost unthinkable to find a wedding story that doesn’t show some footage of lots of hugging, kissing and tears. By refusing to show any of that for gay couples, it dehumanizes them and perpetuates the idea—if subtly—that gay couples are somehow worth less than straight ones. The media plays a powerful role in the movement for equality, and a perpetuation of the idea that gay couples are somehow different or lesser than straight couples by a major new station can have lasting impact on the lives of not only LGBT adults, but LGBT kids for a long time to come.