If Gay Marriage Is Allowed, Will Schools Promote It?

Yes on Proposition 8 ad

hide captionWatch an ad in favor of Proposition 8, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Via YouTube.com/ProtectMarriage.com
O'Connell

hide captionWatch a response to the 'Yes on Proposition 8' ads, featuring Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of schools.

Via YouTube.com/NoOnProp8.com

In California, how voting on one ballot question would impact education is being hotly debated.

Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 8. If passed, the ballot measure would ensure that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid.

For the past two weeks, supporters of Proposition 8 have been running an ad featuring a young girl who brings home a book called King & King.

"Mom, guess what I learned in school today," she says in the ad. "I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess!"

The ad was based on the real-life story of Robin and Robb Wirthlin, a Mormon couple living in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. Two years ago, their son's second-grade teacher read King & King to the class.

"It was very confusing to him," the Wirthlins say. "We had to sit him down and explain that as a family, we value a different way of thinking about marriage."

The Wirthlins complained to the school and eventually sued.

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "public schools are not obliged to shield students from ideas which are potentially offensive to their parents." Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Wirthlins' case.

Around that same time, a group of public school first-graders in San Francisco took a field trip to City Hall where their teacher, Erin Carder, got married to another woman.

When Carder emerged from City Hall, she says, she was surprised to find her students there, tossing rose petals.

"They know I was out of school for a week to take my honeymoon," she told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I just can't believe that they came today! I feel really blessed!"

The trip was optional and was organized by parents, not by the school. But supporters of Proposition 8 cite this story and the Wirthlins' case as proof that the gay marriage initiative could affect California's schools.

Opponents of Proposition 8 liken the tactics of their opponents to the ones used to defeat former presidential candidate John Kerry. "There is no other way to describe what's happening here except that the 'No on 8' side is being swift-boated," says Kate Kendell of the "No on 8" campaign.

She argues that Proposition 8's defeat will have no affect on education — a message that's been echoed by Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of schools

"The 'Yes on Proposition 8' ads that I have seen are misleading, inaccurate and they are really irrelevant," he says.

O'Connell says if Proposition 8 is defeated, that will have no bearing on the state's education code. "There is no requirement, no mandate for any school in the state of California to have this [gay marriage] required as a course."

Recently, the "No on 8" campaign has been touting O'Connell's endorsement in radio and TV ads of their own.

Kendell says she's saddened to see kids dragged into this political battle. But, she adds, it's easy to see why that's happened.

"There's probably no more protective part of human nature," she says, "than when a parent feels like they need to protect children."

Proposition 8 is one of 12 initiatives Californians will vote on Nov. 4.

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