In its politics blog, ABC News reported on Feb. 14:
A federal judge who struck down Virginia’s ban on gay marriage on February 13 inaccurately attributed a quote from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution.
“Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us,” U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote in her original opinion, issued late Thursday.
Though the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees “equal protection” under the law, the Constitution does not include the phrase “all men are created equal.” That would be the Declaration of Independence. …
..By mid-day Feb. 14, Allen issued a second draft [with the revised text]: “Our Declaration of Independence recognizes that ‘all men’ are created equal.”
In his Feb. 14 story for the New York Times, reporter Erick Eckholm wrote: “A federal judge on Thursday evening declared that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, in the strongest legal reversal yet of restrictive marriage amendments that exist throughout the South.”
The Times continued, ”’Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal,”’ wrote Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Norfolk. ‘Surely this means all of us.’”
The New York Times article did not correct the judge’s misquotation or explain from where the phrase “all men are created equal” originated.
In a report late on Feb. 13, NBC News reporter Miranda Leitsinger also quoted Judge Allen’s statement — “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal” — without correction.
1. Why was the judge’s confusion over, or ignorance of, the U.S. Constitution and The Declaration of Independence newsworthy?
2. Why do you think the NY Times and NBC reporters chose to ignore such a glaring error? (bias by omission, spin)
3. Why do you think the media in general chose not to report this story?
4. Do you think if a judge made a ruling favorable to supporters of traditional families instead of favorable to those who want to legalize same-sex marriage the NY Times and NBC reporters would have noticed her misunderstanding of the Constitution? Explain your answer.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
1. The judge’s honest mistake or ignorance is newsworthy because the role of a federal judge is to decide questions of law. The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. A judge who does not know the text of the Constitution should have his/her rulings held up for scrutiny.
2. Opinion question. Answers vary.
3. Opinion question. Answers vary.
4. Opinion question. Answers vary.