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Point/Counterpoint: Has the Entertainment Industry Helped or Hindered LGBT Representation?

POINT: Entertainment’s False Sense of Reality

Asking whether the entertainment industry has been influential in shaping public attitudes on sexuality and the meaning of marriage is like asking if Christopher Nolan is a director.

Same-sex marriage advocates have executed a PR masterstroke the likes of which we’ve not seen in modern social history.

Those who believe marriage is the lifelong, faithful union of husband and wife (who will be mom and dad to the children they create) would like to believe that the polls lie. But that’s not a credible position. Americans have epically shifted on the issue of marriage. We, as supporters of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman, must face up to this reality and understand how the dramatic shift happened. It was certainly no accident, and it wasn’t as “overnight” as it seems.

Vanguards of the same-sex marriage movement have successfully built alliances with Big Business, Big Law, Big Money, Big Government, Big Media, unions, sports, academia, and virtually every other institution of influence over much of the past generation. Chief Justice John Roberts noted in the 2013 marriage-go-round at the U.S. Supreme Court that “political leaders are falling all over themselves” to get into the same-sex marriage “me too” queue. All the other elites listed above have similarly pledged their fealty, their power and their wealth to this iteration of the sexual revolution.

But no institution has been more influential in shaping American hearts, minds and polls on this issue than Big Entertainment.

Presence is powerful, but the illusion of omnipresence is impossible to overstate or overcome. Big Entertainment has deliberately — as is its right to do in this free country — elevated LGBT characters and threaded affirming themes throughout a vast number of movies, TV shows and other productions. How successful the saturation has been. A recent Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans believe more than 20% of the population identifies as gay or lesbian, which is five to 10 times the actual number. Millennials — purportedly the generation with the most finely tuned anti-marketing meters in world history — believe 28% of humans identify as gay or lesbian. It’s been said that as a society, we’ve lost the power to think. Mulling the numbers above, it’s reasonable to conclude we’ve abandoned the will to even observe the world as it is — a generation of faces absorbed into the screens from which Big Entertainment amuses, enchants and guides us.

Greg Scott is VP of Media Communications at Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy alliance that has litigated dozens of marriage cases across the country for more than a decade.

COUNTERPOINT: Sports, Entertainment Provide LGBT Role Models

Our strongest allies in getting to this historic point have been the sports world and the entertainment world. Without the film “Philadelphia” and without Magic Johnson, we would not have made the progress we made on HIV/AIDS. And on LGBT rights and marriage, it was the entertainment industry that helped make the mystery disappear — and the more the mystery disappeared, the more fear disappeared. When fear disappears, you have understanding. And now we have this moment.

This would have been unthinkable four decades ago. When I came out and started getting involved in 1976, they were still doing lobotomies on some members of the LGBT community, to “cure” them of being gay. It was against the law for LGBT people to even gather for political meetings in some states. It was a dark period.

There were no positive role models in TV or the movies, and then “All in the Family” had gay characters and gay jokes. And even though it was stereotypical, it was progress. To even have the acknowledgement that we existed; that was progress.

“Will & Grace” was perhaps the most successful show ever done with gay lead characters. But you still had a straight woman living with a gay man. Today you have full make-out scenes and more on television. We have a whole generation under 40 who have been raised in an era of television with “Game of Thrones,” and Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris. It is no longer unique. It’s not like younger people are supportive of gay rights despite some opposition. They can’t understand what all the fuss was about … That has an enormous amount to do with the entertainment industry.

We can’t forget that the members of the Supreme Court are also nine Americans — nine individuals. They represent a broad swath of ideology, yes. But many of them have children who have LGBT friends, or they have relatives who are gay. They watch television and go to the movies and go to the theater. They are not locked up in a back room at the Supreme Court. They can’t separate themselves that much from society. The June 26 decision proved that the majority of them understood the massive disruption they would have caused if they had gone the wrong way with this decision.

David Mixner is a pioneering civil rights activist, author and screenwriter whose one-man show, “Oh Hell No!” details his struggles with the AIDS crisis and other issues.

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