Bay Windows posted an interesting piece yesterday — their article Local media swallows ‘bathroom bill’ rhetoric talks about how local media markets in Massachusetts have adopted the biased language of the religious right — of conservative “Christian”s — when its come to the current civil rights legislation that’s pending in the state. Associate Editor Ethan Jacobs began his piece this way:
On July 14, the day of a legislative hearing on the transgender rights bill currently on Beacon Hill, WCVB’s NewsCenter 5 ran a story about the bill on its evening newscast. Anchor Liz Brunner introduced the story by saying, “It’s being called the bathroom bill, [and it] is essentially meant to end discrimination based on transgender status.” Behind Brunner was an image of the traditional male and female stick figures found on restroom doors, positioned next to the State House dome and above the tagline, “Bathroom Bill.” Yet the only people calling the trans rights bill, House Bill 1728, a “bathroom bill” are its opponents, and the label is a misnomer by any objective criteria.
H.B. 1728 adds trans-inclusive language to the state’s non-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, public accommodations, credit, housing, and education, as well as to the state’s hate-crimes laws, going far beyond simply allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that match their gender identity or expression. Opponents of the legislation, led by the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI), claim that the bill will allow male sexual predators to masquerade as women and sneak into women’s restrooms and locker rooms. WCVB’s coverage of the transgender rights bill, as well as the coverage by some other local media outlets, suggests that the work of the bill’s opponents to label the legislation a bathroom bill in public discourse has been at least somewhat successful…
The article goes on to say…
..[The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI)], an offshoot of the national Christian right advocacy group Focus on the Family, has spent the past year working to re-brand H.B. 1728 as the “bathroom bill.” In April, around the time when both supporters and opponents of the bill held back-to-back lobby days on Beacon Hill, the group created a Web site, NoBathroomBill.com, to provide supporters with talking points against the bill and to direct them to contact their lawmakers. MFI began running ads on WBZ NewsRadio this summer referring to the legislation as the bathroom bill and featuring a conversation between two mothers who believe that their children will not be safe in pubic bathrooms if the bill passes. Activists in other states, including New Hampshire and Colorado, have used similar tactics to advocate against state and local transgender rights bills.
Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), which is leading the effort to pass the transgender rights bill, said he was disappointed by the media coverage of the hearing. He said even in outlets that did not refer to the bill as a bathroom bill, the issue of bathrooms dominated the coverage.
If you don’t recall, this is what Focus On The Family has previously given us for ads on “bathroom bills” in the past:
…And, we’ve seen ads like the Citizens For Good Public Policy’s ad that portrays civil rights based on gender identity or expression as a bathroom predator issue…And too, Focus On The Family has definitely fanned the flames on transgender bathroom use in the past.
Considering that Focus On The Family, as well as other conservative “Christian” organizations (such as Citizens For Good Public Policy and MFI), can’t point to any actual cases of trans people — or even cross-dressed, non-trans people — behaving as predators in public women’s restrooms, they absolutely have to know they are playing to fears and exaggerating any threat. But, as the issue is being framed in Massachusetts, they are doing framing the issue in terms of predatory bathroom behavior quite successfully.
I’ve talked in the past about why this focus on the bathroom should be a concern for not just trans people, but lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well. For example, here’s what Dr. Dobson himself stated when Colorado passed a bill that addressed trans civil rights (emphasis & link added):
Who would have believed that the Colorado state Legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women’s restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation?
Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence. The legislation lists every conceivable type of organization to which this law applies, including restaurants, bathhouses, massage parlors, mortuaries, theaters and ‘public facilities of any kind.’ Those who would attempt to protect females from this intrusion are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year behind bars…
When Focus On The Family or their agents use the bathroom against civil rights, they aren’t just aiming at trans people. They are aiming at the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) community. That mainstream, legacy media in Massachusetts has latched onto the conservative “Christian” narrative regarding civil rights for trans people — civil rights based on gender identity or expression — bodes poorly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people’s issues into the future.
But hey, next time someone tells you that there is a liberal media bias, you can say “Liberal media bias my *ss!” and point to this story to show a conservative “Christian” media bias in at least some media markets. And hey, a conservative “Christian” media bias where one might think northeast America is a liberal bastion?
Yeah. “Liberal media bias my *ss!”
* Transgender Friendly Restrooms As Part Of The Homosexual Agenda
* Convincing sales pitch of the year, from Traditional Values Coalition
* If Dr. Dobson Were King, We’d All Be Wearing Depends
* I’m Going To Colorado In August With PHB; I’m Going To Make Use Of Public Accommodations