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More on marriage and schools

Blog conversation!

Just read Jeff's post, and I have some things to add/say. I think Jeff is right that gay-marriage opponents "are attempting to use education as a fear-motivated wedge issue in what is a civil rights issue."

But I disagree that the anti-marriage "campaign's claim that 'gay marriage will be taught in Maine schools' is a lie...That is a ludicrous and stupid fearmongering claim with no basis in reality or fact." (He's referring here to "we" the general news media, not "we" the Phoenix, because we the Phoenix have not yet written extensively on this particular issue.) There's a lot of reality, and fact, in the idea that if LD 1020 stands, same-sex marriage will come up as a topic in Maine's classrooms. And I don't think pro-equality forces should have to shy away from that.

In fact, I agree with Marc Mutty (on leave from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine to help run the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign), who said in a press conference on Wednesday something to the effect of: If LD 1020 stands, of course gay marriage will be taught in schools; it is the job of the educator to teach children about the world around them.

"The infrastructure is already in place," campaign manager Frank Shubert said in the same teleconference, "to push this issue into the schools." The word "push" is obviously used to incite fear. But otherwise he's right. Yes, if same-sex marriage is legal in Maine, of course all of Maine's citizens, young and old, should know about it, learn about it -- and there are (thank goodness!) avenues/groups/pathways that already exist to help those conversations take place. 

How absurd it would be if same-sex marriage was legal in Maine, but was still treated as a clandestine concept! That would be like if teenagers had sex, and we couldn't talk about it school! Or something!

There's a difference, I hope people realize, between acknowledging that gay marriage exists -- that gay couples exist, even -- and being "indoctrinated" into a "homosexual lifestyle" -- as anti-marriage forces love to call it. (Not to mention the fact that people who harp on the idea of "homosexual indoctrination" obviously still believe that being gay is a choice that one can be persuaded into or dissuaded against.)

Which brings me to my next point. This debate really makes me worried that anti-marriage forces are not just against gay marriage, but also gay people. They like to frame the debate in academic or philosophical terms that relate to religious institutions or legal parsing. But the emotional tenor sounds much different.

In the press conference, Massachsuetts mom Robin Wirthlin said explicitly what is implied in Stand for Marriage Maine's latest TV ad: when her seven-year-old son came home from school with King and King, a book which portrays a romantic relationship between two men, she was shocked that it "introduced the concept of homosexuality to a seven year old." She and her husband had wanted to wait, she said, to talk to their son about this "controversial adult social issue." That's homosexuality, not same-sex marriage. Later in the call, her husband expressed his concern that teachers would be able to "teach and advocate homosexual romantic love." So this isn't about gay people getting married, it's about people being gay at all?

Shubert then launched into a description of how the state's LGBTQ youth commission has laid the groundwork for, essentially, diversity education in schools. Again, it's difficult to see how this relates specifically to the marriage issue, since the commission is charged with addressing tolerance, safety, and education issues. It sounded as though Shubert was aghast at the very existance of these programs.

The Stand for Marriage Maine press release that Jeff posted earlier asked the following questions:

So when our opponents say that LD 1020 has nothing to do with 
schools and education, they need to be asked this question. Can they 
promise that such instruction will not take place?  Can they guarantee 
that the infrastructure for pushing their agenda, which the state 
report referenced above seeks to create in every school, won't they be 
used to promote instruction that traditional and homosexual marriage 
are legally the same thing?   They will dodge and divert, but will 
they make such a pledge?

My question is, why should they have to?

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