While Thursday reports on both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today featured Proposition 8 supporters questioning the impartiality of California Federal Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to strike down the state's referendum defending traditional marriage, CBS's Early Show failed to provide any such arguments.
On Good Morning America, correspondent Terry Moran explained: "Opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to fight on and blasted the judge for, they said, letting personal interests trump his legal duty." A clip was played of one Proposition 8 supporter: "The judge has imposed his own agenda upon the voters and the children and the parents of California."
On Today, legal correspondent Pete Williams noted: "But opponents of gay marriage, who supported Proposition 8, denounced the ruling and began preparing to fight back." Supporter Randy Thomasson explained: "The judge has shut the Constitution, imposed his own agenda. He's made a lot of people happy in the gay community in San Francisco, but he is the most dangerous type of judge in America."
The Early Show report by correspondent Priya David-Clemens only featured a couple brief sound bites of gay marriage opponents in "outright disbelief" of the ruling, but no specific criticisms of the judge being biased. In contrast, three sound bites in favor of the ruling were featured.
Of the three network morning shows, only Good Morning America noted that Judge Walker was himself openly gay. Introducing the segment, co-host George Stephanopoulos mentioned: "The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, a Republican first nominated for the bench by Ronald Reagan, he is also openly gay." Both the Early Show and Today skipped over that detail.
Following David-Clemens's Early Show report, co-host Harry Smith discussed Judge Walker's decision with legal correspondent Jan Crawford, who proclaimed:
...this is a devastating opinion for opponents of same-sex marriage. 136 pages, he has 80 findings of fact that basically amount not only to a defense of same-sex marriage but to a defense of gay people. He says same-sex couples are identical to straight couples and that religious beliefs that homosexually is a sin harms gays and lesbians. On point after point after point he knocks down all of the arguments that were put forth by opponents of same-sex marriage and says gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marriage under the constitution, just like straight people do.
Smith then wondered if Walker's ruling amounted to settled law: "...there are plenty of people still opposed who want to mount lawsuits against it. What kind of a chance do they have with – is this enough to set a precedent?" Crawford responded: "If this ruling stands and is affirmed by higher courts, it could affect the laws in 45 states, forcing them to redefine how they look at marriage...this is really the first federal court test and it could definitely, as it goes forward, set a precedent that will affect every person across the country."
Raising the possibility of the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court, Smith asked: "[if] the Supreme Court stays on the same side, based on the legal issues that you just outlined, will same-sex marriage become the law of the land?" Only then did Crawford acknowledge the temporary nature of the ruling: "Now, if the court agrees with that, absolutely. But that is a huge gamble that – the people who brought this case are making a huge gamble the Supreme Court is ready to do that. You know, it's pretty closely divided, Harry, as you well know, up there."