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Transphobic Voices Elevated in Media Coverage of Equality Act

Report card

Several media outlets failed to include any LGBTQ+ voices, while some quoted transphobic rhetoric without context, a GLAAD analysis finds.

Many of the nation's large mainstream media outlets have come up short in their coverage of the Equality Act, according to an analysis by GLAAD.

GLAAD created a report card, posted on its blog, grading 17 print, digital, and broadcast outlets. Five received passing grades, three received "satisfactory/needs improvement," eight received failing grades, and one, Newsweek, was graded as "super fail."

None met GLAAD's standards for a grade of "outstanding." These standards are that the coverage include original quotes from LGBTQ+ advocates, including transgender advocates, and statements from LGBTQ+ members of Congress; context on the need for the Equality Act, given lack of federal and state nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans; a fact check on anti-trans rhetoric if any was featured in the coverage; and polling showing that overwhelming majority of voters, including Republicans, support the legislation.

The U.S. House last week approved the Equality Act, which would provide nationwide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in many aspects of life, including employment, housing, public accommodations, and more. It awaits a vote in the Senate.

The Associated Press, HuffPost, NPR, Reuters, and The Washington Post received passing grades for meeting some of GLAAD's standards, as they included statements from press releases or tweets from LGBTQ+ advocates, but most had no trans voices. HuffPost was the only one with the latter -- a tweet from the National Center for Transgender Equality. HuffPost also covered the concerns of the bill's opponents "without elevating inaccurate or transphobic rhetoric," according to GLAAD's blog post.

ABC News, NBC News, and USA Today were marked "satisfactory/needs improvement." They had quotes from either LGBTQ+ activists or members of Congress, but some included transphobic rhetoric without anything to counter it. For instance, ABC News "quotes inaccurate and harmful transphobic rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Greg Steube without sufficient fact-check or added context," GLAAD stated.

Among the outlets that received failing grades, some included transphobic statements without context, and others did not quote any LGBTQ+ advocates. These outlets were Bloomberg, The Boston Globe, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, The Hill, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The Hill, for example, "includes inaccurate, transphobic claims about the Equality Act's impact on women's sports, the medical industry, and more from Marjorie Taylor Greene and Chip Roy without countering or contextualizing as false," GLAAD noted.

Newsweek received its "super fail" grade for running, on the day of the vote, "three articles (two opinion, one news) that focused entirely on transphobic, anti-LGBTQ views of the Equality Act" and for several other reasons, according to the blog post. Its news story on the bill's passage "quoted only anti-trans Republican leaders -- including nothing from the bill's sponsors," GLAAD stated, while it ran an opinion piece from the chair of the Women's Liberation Front, which GLAAD called an "anti-trans hate group." Another opinion article featured the "demonstrably false claim that the Equality Act would bring about 'the end of females,'" the post related.

GLAAD said its report card was not meant to attack any particular journalist or outlet but to show how the media can do better. Among the ways to do better, according to GLAAD: quote those with a stake in the legislation, including trans people; fact-check claims about trans people, especially trans youth, as anti-trans rhetoric is so prevalent; contextualize opponents of the Equality Act, showing "the difference between 'conservative' groups and specifically anti-LGBTQ groups"; look to the experts, such as LGBTQ+ media; assign informed reporters; and avoid perpetuating false divisions.

On the latter, GLAAD noted, "Recently, conservative opponents of trans equality have adopted new framing that falsely pits trans people against cisgender women as if equality were a zero-sum game. Keep in mind that many cisgender women support trans equality, and that many in the LGBTQ community are women as well. Elevating falsehoods about policies like the Equality Act somehow bringing harm to women leaves out the many cisgender and transgender LGBTQ women who lack protection from discrimination, as well as the many feminists who are outspoken trans allies."

To accompany the report card, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis issued this statement: "LGBTQ voices cannot be left out of the coverage of the Equality Act, especially while lawmakers use their platforms to spread inaccurate information about them. We are urging the mainstream press to include LGBTQ people while covering issues important to our lives, and to recognize and call out misinformation. The Equality Act is the most significant civil rights legislation for LGBTQ people and will protect every LGBTQ American from discrimination. The hostile and false rhetoric used to attack the bill and LGBTQ people personally shows why The Equality Act is so needed. The press must focus on the truth about the bill and include the perspectives of those it will protect."

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