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More blog conversation on same-sex marriage

I just read and digested Deirdre's post, responding to my post from last night.

As I told her (we do also talk in the office, rather than just posting back and forth) I agree with about 98 percent of what she wrote - possibly even more. I especially agree with her that the anti-same-sex-marriage crew are not really engaging in debate about marriage itself (or partnership or even civil unions) but are actually still denouncing homosexuality and homosexuals, whether they want to get married or not.

None of the announcements or ads from those who want to repeal the marriage-equality law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor address the distinctions between marriage and non-marriage, or civil unions, or partnerships. Possibly, this is because the leaders of the repeal campaign realize that most Mainers - and most Americans, and, likely, most people anywhere - believe that people who are in a loving, committed relationship should be allowed to inherit property from each other without the government getting in the middle, be able to visit each other in the hospital, and have other rights and responsibilities.

Rather, the repeal-equality campaign (feel free to steal that phrase if you like it) is stoking fear and prejudice against gays and lesbians themselves.

Where Deirdre and I disagree is primarily around the idea of same-sex marriage being taught in Maine's schools. I called the suggestion of that a lie; she called it reality and even encouraged it.

But I have talked to Deirdre and I think we are seeing different meanings in the phrase "taught in Maine schools." When I hear that phrase, I immediately and instinctively think "There will be a gay-marriage class in Maine schools." It's the same reaction I'd have if someone told me "Arabic is being taught in Maine schools" - I'd automatically think there would be an Arabic class.

The anti-marriage forces are exploiting that tendency of people's minds - to leap to a conclusion gently suggested but never specifically stated. And they are making rhetorical hay where little or none exists. Think about the difference between these two statements:

"Gay marriage will be taught in Maine schools."

"Gay marriage will be discussed in Maine schools."

There's a clear difference, isn't there? And one is WAY less concerning than the other - even for me, who truly believes in marriage equality (and all other kinds of equality). It's because I am wary of indoctrination - of myself and of others - not because I am wary of the issue or of having the discussion.

I absolutely agree with Deirdre that gay marriage will - and should - be discussed in sex-ed classes and social-studies classes and whatever other classes the topic comes up in. And, in fact, it already is, and was before the bill was proposed, much less passed or signed into law.

But the idea that marriage is "taught" is different to me than the idea that marriage is "discussed." (It's not like students rehearse vows or practice walking up and down the aisle.) Hetero marriage isn't "taught" in Maine schools - and is probably assumed more often than it should be. Hetero marriage won't be "taught" in the future - and neither will gay marriage, whether the law stands or not. Both, though, will - and ought to - be discussed, for all the reasons Deirdre cited, most notably because we need our schools to teach children about the world that actually exists, as well as the one we wish to build.

That phrasing - using the word "taught" - is a clever way to manipulate those people who believe that homosexuality can be taught (or taught against) into escalating their fear level. It also raises the hackles of independent-minded people who are wary of indoctrination in any form, like me.

It's that choice of a misleading and manipulative phrase that I object to. I do stand by my statement that it is a lie to say that same-sex marriage will be "taught" in Maine's schools - because marriage of any kind won't be "taught" in the way that word connotes for me. But I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree with Deirdre that regardless of the outcome of the vote, Maine schoolchildren will have many discussions about same-sex marriage. And I completely agree with her that they should be having those discussions now, and that they should continue to.

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