The debate about the Nov. 3 ballot’s Question 1, the effort to repeal Maine’s newly minted same-sex marriage law, will heat up in the coming weeks. Heat is one thing. Falsehoods are another.
Opponents of the law are bringing children into the fray, suggesting their innocence would be sullied if the repeal fails. It’s a ploy that has been used effectively before; any candidate for elected office who supports sex education is said to favor handing out condoms to kindergarten children. This time, the claim by repeal proponents is that schools would be forced to teach “gay sex education.” It is baseless and betrays an ignorance about education.
The claim was made by the Stand for Marriage Maine group in a recent mass e-mail message soliciting donations. In addition, the Rev. Bob Emrich of the Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth, a member of the Stand for Marriage group’s executive committee, wrote in a BDN OpEd: “No matter what their parents may teach them, Maine schools would indoctrinate their children that homosexual marriage is completely normal and equally desirable as traditional marriage and there is nothing parents could do to prevent it.”
This is not true.
The same-sex marriage law does not address anything in state education law. And, further, there are no state mandates to teach sex education, let alone explicit “gay sex education,” as the repeal group’s e-mail stated. Sexuality is discussed in most Maine high schools, and has been for decades, but locally elected school boards oversee those curriculums and parents are able to exempt their children from those discussions.
Still, the repeal proponents have touched on a truth, seemingly in spite of themselves. Gay couples are currently allowed to adopt. And many have children from previous heterosexual relationships. Those children attend our schools, and have for decades. If Sally’s two dads come to an elementary school awards night, or if Billy’s two moms come to the school concert, the relationships may become a topic in the morning circle discussion the next day.
Whether Sally’s or Billy’s same-sex parents are married or living together does not change the discussion the teacher might facilitate. If same-sex marriage remains legal, the teacher would merely be using different terminology than he or she would have used last year or 10 years ago.
So, the question that remains about the repeal proponents is: Are they knowingly misleading people by claiming schools will be forced to teach the details of gay sex, or are they genuinely ignorant that same-sex couples are among us, and that their children are in our schools? Neither speaks well of their argument supporting a yes vote.