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The Reporters Who Didn't Bark

There's a reason that the media hasn't asked national Democrats what they think about California's same-sex marriage bill.

9:40 AM, Sep 22, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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THE AFTERMATH OF KATRINA obscured many stories from public view. One of them concerned same-sex marriage. It deserves much more attention, particularly from national politicians.

On September 1, the California state Senate, by a vote of 21 to 15, approved same-sex marriage for the Golden State.

On Tuesday, September 6, the state Assembly approved the same bill by a margin of 41 to 35. No Republican voted for the measure, and four Assembly Democrats voted against it. The bill proposed changing the legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to a "civil contract between two persons." Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, citing the overwhelming victory of Proposition 22, an initiative banning same-sex marriage, which had passed with 61 percent of the vote in 2000.

National news media accounts of the votes and the vetoes quoted the backers of the proposal as well as the governor's spokespeople, and advocates and opponents on both sides of the debate.

But in no story that I can find did a reporter think to ask a national Democratic leader for their opinion on the vote by their California colleagues. Google News cannot even find San Francisco Democrat and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi's name in the same story as same-sex marriage. Neither can the San Francisco Chronicle over the past 30 days.

Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer made high-profile appearances on national television during the period of the California debate. Of course the big issues they discussed were Katrina relief and the Roberts nomination, but their omission of the California same-sex marriage issue is notable for a couple of reasons.

First, the national players on the left aren't volunteering any opinions on the subject, and not because this is a "state" issue. Rather, it is a nightmare scenario for Democrats who know that their allies on the left are strongly in favor of same-sex marriage.

Second, the media knows this is an issue of intense interest across the political spectrum. The mainstream media also knows that every single time the question of same-sex marriage has been submitted directly to the voters, it has been overwhelming rejected. It is thus a losing issue for Democrats outside of California's hermetically-sealed-off-from-competition legislative districts. Because the gerrymandering in California is so precise, Democrats there have nothing to fear from getting separated from their constituencies. Not so the national Democrats. Recall that John Kerry repeatedly stated his opposition to same-sex marriage throughout campaign 2004, and even went so far as to state that he'd have voted for a state proposition banning the idea.

How to explain the media's collective pass issued to big-name Dems?

Simple enough: They are sparing them a series of questions that would embarrass them. Such as:

"Senator Clinton, the California Democrats have pushed through a same-sex marriage bill. Should Governor Schwarzenegger sign it?"

"I need to follow up on that senator. I realize it is a local issue, but it has national implications, senator. Does it make sense to you?"

"If the bill is signed and the Defense of Marriage Act fails to prevent mandatory recognition of California marriages in states that have rejected the idea, should the Constitution be amended to provide for a state option or even a total ban?"

"Isn't the California Democratic party really reflecting the true feelings of the Democrats, feelings which a number of your colleagues share but which come with too high a political penalty?"

There isn't an honest journalist in the country who would deny that those are interesting questions which would generate news no matter how Senator Clinton or Senator Reid or Schumer answered. That they haven't been asked--by any reporter in any venue of any big-name Democrat--speaks volume about the mainstream media's bias and its adjunct status to the Democratic party.

The Democratic party's real voice on the issue of same-sex marriage was heard in California, but the media has judged it too soon to launch that debate on the national stage. As Gray Davis once allowed on television, "the people aren't ready for that yet." Exactly.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.