In two successive press releases this week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tries to have it both ways with federal funding. It raises a ruckus when Bush Administration pays a political pundit promoting straight marriage, then gets equally as upset when the same Administration pulls funding from a cartoon featuring lesbian couples.
I agree that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' singling out this one program to de-fund amounts to petty pandering to social conservatives. But, social conservative interest groups might reply that HRC's decision to single out federal funding of Maggie Gallagher amounts to pandering to its own base.
If it's wrong for the government to pay Maggie Gallagher to put forward her opinions, wouldn't it then also be wrong for the government to pay for a TV program which presents relationships which Maggie Gallagher and her allies don't want to see?
From what I have read of the de-funded TV program, the "Sugartime!" episode of "POSTCARDS FROM BUSTER," it seems exactly the type of portrayal of gay relationships I would like to see in the media. In this episode, the TV show's title character visits Vermont and meets "two lesbian couples."
As I (an American citizen) would like to see more portrayals of lesbian and gay couples in TV shows, many social conservatives (also American citizens) would like to see more studies of the type that the federal government paid Ms. Gallagher to write.
It seems, alas, that, like the social conservatives who are eager for government support for programs which promote straight marriage, HRC is eager for government programs which promote understanding of same-sex unions. This, in a nutshell, is the whole notion of government's using to the media to promote social agendae: if it pleases one group, it's bound to offend another.
If HRC favors government support of such PBS programming, then it has to face the reality of the constitutional structure of our federal government. When Congress allocates money for various programs, the executive branch determines how the law mandates such funds should be distributed. That's what Ms. Spellings did in this case, claiming, according to the "BOSTON GLOBE," "the 'Sugartime!' episode does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to 'research-based educational objectives, content, and materials.'"
Since the American people elected a conservative president, his administration will determine the intent of Congress. If Congress had not allocated money for taxpayer dollars' for educational programming, then the conservative administration could not single this one program out.
Thus, by advocating government funding to promote social policy, HRC favors a situation which puts conservative hands on federal dollars. After all, although this group "poured" their hearts and souls" into defeating President Bush, the American people reelected him by a comfortable margin, thus allowing him to appoint like-minded individuals to administer the funds allocated by Congress.
Thankfully, the president is now on record opposing federal funding of political pundits. Now, we just need to convince Congress to eliminate funding for all public broadcast media, both television and radio.
HRC needs to understand that once the government starts funding the media, it is not the only interest group which is trying to sway the administration. And given its attacks on the president, both during the presidential campaign and as recently as last week, it's highly unlikely that it could effectively lobby this administration.
With or without influence with the Administration, HRC seems to have this standard on federal funding of the media: allocate taxpayer resources to the programs we like, but cut them off from those we don't like. If social conservatives, who have more sway with the current Administration, were to adopt the same attitude, then they would push for de-funding programming HRC supports and increasing funding for programming HRC opposes. And given their support of the president, they are more likely to influence his administration.
Let's limit their influence. Let's not give social conservatives' access to taxpayer dollars. Let's cut off all federal funding for all broadcast and print media. Let's refund that money to taxpayers so that individual Americans can decide which media to support -- and which to ignore.