Marriage is not school’s responsibility

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Will same-sex marriage be taught in schools, if it becomes legal in Maine? No — nothing in law, or curriculum, mandates any Maine student be taught about marriage, same-sex or otherwise.

Should same-sex marriage be taught?

Again, the answer is no. Marriage should not be part of a curriculum. Either as a secular tradition or a religious sacrament, marriage is better left to families to teach, or provide examples of.

A school is not responsible for teaching marriage to kids. What should be taught is respect and tolerance for all peoples, a founding tenet of our society. Schools would do our children and civilization a disservice if they couldn’t perform this function.

Yet supporters of repealing same-sex marriage say, in a new advertisement, that upholding same-sex marriage would result in “homosexual marriage” taught “whether parents like it or not.”

This claim is rooted in a landmark federal case, Parker v. Hurley, which arose when parents in Lexington, Mass., sued their school district after books depicting same-sex relationships were introduced to children, once Massachusetts lawmakers approved same-sex marriages.

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A federal court, in 2008, upheld the school’s actions. It cited the distinction between the rights of parents and school curricula, saying public schools walk a “tightrope between the many competing constitutional demands made by parents, students, teachers and … other constituents.”

At the heart of that case, however, was coercion. The offended parents claimed that offering these books was akin to indoctrination that intended to instill positive opinions about same-sex marriages in their children, which was counter to the parents’ own outlook.

The court found no link between education and indoctrination in Parker v. Hurley. In its decision, the court identified a clear difference between the teachings of tolerance and respect, and the forced affirmation of a relationship some find objectionable.

The first is laudable and the second should be avoided. It was in Massachusetts. And it should be in Maine, regardless of what’s decided in November.

In fact, the court’s decision states the plaintiff parents were indeed deeply offended, and can seek recourse through their local school boards or state legislature.

This same privilege would be extended to any person in Maine, if materials deemed offensive by parents were presented to children. Insinuating, then, Parker v. Hurley would make “homosexual marriage” a part of Maine academics stretches the facts of the case.

It only would if there was a significant alteration of Maine’s current academic curriculum and laws, which the pending marriage legislation does not prescribe.

What Parker v. Hurley says is districts may offer material depicting same-sex relationships, and that offering this material does not infringe the constitutional rights of parents. It doesn’t say this material will be taught, or that parents are helpless if the prospect arises.

And neither does Maine law.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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