Marriage ad unfairly links amendment to school curriculum issue

The Minnesota for Marriage spot features Massachusetts couple David and Tonia Parker.

On Thursday, Minnesota for Marriage, the group campaigning in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, began airing a TV ad warning, “If gay marriage happens here, schools could teach that boys could marry boys.”

The 30-second spot features Massachusetts couple David and Tonia Parker. “After Massachusetts redefined marriage, local schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended,” David Parker warns.

Opposite the shot of the Parkers appears the image of a picture book, “King & King,” which depicts a prince who marries another prince.

“If marriage is redefined in Minnesota, same-sex marriage could be taught in local schools, just as it was in Massachusetts,” adds Tonia Parker. “Don’t make the same mistake and think that gay marriage won’t affect you.”

With the exception of the name of the states and the title of the ballot question, the ad is identical to one that began airing at the same time in Maryland. The script is also the same for one that hit the airwaves in Maine, although the images differ slightly.

“If history is a guide, we can expect gay ‘marriage’ activists to push this teaching throughout Minnesota if gay ‘marriage’ is legalized,” Minnesota for Marriage Chairman John Helmberger said in a statement accompanying the ad’s release. “This will cause problems with the majority of Minnesotans who firmly believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.

“It puts parents and pastors in a difficult situation when they teach the truth of marriage at home and in church, but then their kids are taught something entirely different at school. This undermines parental rights and causes confusion for children. Also, schools are taking away from parents the right to determine the time and manner in which the highly contentious issue of gay ‘marriage’ is introduced to their children.”

Thursday MinnPost carried a story fact-checking another of the group’s ads, which repeats dubious claims being raised in the three other states where marriage-related referenda appear on this year’s ballot. Minnesota for Marriage’s fourth ad, a direct descendant of Prop 8’s notorious “princess ad,” showcased the same book and alluded to the Parkers’ case.

“King & King” and the assertion that same-sex marriage will be “taught” to schoolchildren have appeared in ad after ad in the 31 states where voters have decided gay marriage questions. It is the most complicated of the claims to unravel and its emotional implication — that parents will be helpless to stop their children’s indoctrination into homosexuality — powerful and frightening.

Like Minnesota students, children in Massachusetts have long been exposed in schools to age-appropriate materials depicting different kinds of families, often as social studies instruction and sometimes as anti-bullying or school climate curriculum.  Typically picture books, the materials depict single parents, kids in foster care, interracial families, children being raised by grandparents, and kids with two mothers or two fathers.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Minnesota right now, and will remain illegal even if the proposed constitutional amendment does not pass. The vote holds no implications for schools’ decisions regarding curriculum, and parents’ rights concerning the education of their children will still be subject to the same decades of well-established law as before.

Indeed, the Parkers’ case was not even caused by the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. At issue in Parker v. Hurley were two Massachusetts laws, one requiring elementary school pupils to be able to describe different kinds of families and another mandating parents be notified when children are to be given instruction in human sexuality and allowed to pull their kids out of the lesson. Both predated the legalization of gay marriage by a decade.

According to the court’s findings, the Parkers objected when their son Jacob brought home a diversity book bag: “This included a picture book, ‘Who’s in a Family?’ which depicted different families, including single-parent families, an extended family, interracial families, animal families, a family without children, and — to the concern of the Parkers — a family with two dads and a family with two moms. The book concludes by answering the question, ‘Who’s in a family? The people who love you the most!’ The book says nothing about marriage.”

The principal at their son’s school disagreed with the Parkers’ subsequent request that their son not be exposed to any material that featured same-sex unions. District administrators agreed. After one meeting, David Parker was arrested after refusing to leave the school until his demands were met.

The Parkers complained again the following year when Jacob’s classroom contained both “Who’s in a Family?” and a book about a girl who is initially embarrassed that she has two mothers. A few months later, the parents of a second-grader at the same school complained that their son’s teacher read “King & King.”

“This picture book tells the story of a prince, ordered by his mother to get married, who first rejects several princesses only to fall in love with another prince,” the court explained. “A wedding scene between the two princes is depicted. The last page of the book shows the two princes kissing, but with a red heart superimposed over their mouths.”

The two families sued, alleging “that the public schools are systematically indoctrinating [their] young children contrary to the parents’ religious beliefs and that the defendants held ‘a specific intention to denigrate the [families’] sincere and deeply-held faith.’”

The court disagreed, noting that a long-established body of law says parents can choose whether to send their children to public schools, but can’t dictate what or how they are taught. “While we accept as true plaintiffs’ assertion that their sincerely held religious beliefs were deeply offended, we find that they have not described a constitutional burden on their rights, or on those of their children,” the court ruled.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/26/2012 - 11:47 am.

    The polite term

    …for what Minnesota for Marriage is practicing is “sophistry.” The more plain-language term is “lies.” That the couple featured in the ad are describing events that took place a decade before same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts should itself be enough to condemn the ad to the trash bin. The additional information provided regarding their lawsuit simply highlights the fact that they’re opposed to diversity (i.e., they’re bigots), and apparently believe that theirs are the only views that schools should present to children. In other words, they don’t want their children educated, they want them indoctrinated – but only in a particular way that they happen to approve. Fortunately, the courts – interested in upholding both rights and laws for everyone – made plain that their rights were not being infringed upon.

    If Minnesota for Marriage were actually concerned about… um… marriage, they’d want EVERYONE to be married, and that’s obviously not the case.

    It’s already been established here and in media outlets all across the state and nation that there is NO campaign to “redefine marriage.” What IS happening is a campaign to PREVENT gay and lesbian couples from marrying – a form of discrimination based solely on the sexual preference and behavior of those being discriminated against. This is being pursued by the very same people who would be apoplectic should someone inquire as to their own sexual habits and behaviors.

    The hypocrisy involved is truly jaw-dropping. What Minnesota for Marriage is really “for” is not marriage, but sexual discrimination.

  2. Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 10/26/2012 - 11:48 am.

    Bad Title

    The link that the other side has fabricated out of whole cloth might indeed be called “unfair,” but that misses the point: they’re lying.

    Better to say “inaccurately” or “falsely” if that’s what you really mean.

  3. Submitted by Paul Linnee on 10/26/2012 - 11:53 am.

    “Same sex marriage could be taught in schools”

    The ad states, “If marriage is redefined in Minnesota, same-sex marriage could be taught in local schools, just as it was in Massachusetts”.

    This is a nonsensical argument. What is meant by “taught”? It seems to me that I and both my kids “learned about” Nazism, Communism, homicide, poverty, racism and all sorts of other outcomes or conditions in school. I would suppose that would mean we were “taught” these things. Right? But that doesn’t mean I/they turned out to be Nazis, Communists, murderers, poor, racists or anything else that we were exposed to, learned about or “were taught” in public schools.

    Are these parents saying that they don’t want their kids exposed to anything that they (the parents) or even society as a whole find objectionable? Seems to me that’s a sure fire route to a new generation of good, critical thinkers. 🙂

  4. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 10/26/2012 - 12:28 pm.

    Respectful Dialogue?

    The Republicans who put this amendment on the ballot did so while explaining that it was time for Minnesotans to have a respectful dialogue about same sex marriage.

    I am disappointed that Minnesotans for Marriage is no longer respecting the people of Minnesota when it turns to discredited scare tactics to add this hurtful amendment to our constitution.

    Rejecting this amendment will not change the curriculum in our schools; will not lead to indoctrination of students into the gay lifestyle (if that were remotely possible); will not infringe on religious freedom; and will not take away rights from anyone.Rejecting this hurtful amendment will show that we are the kind of people who respect our fellow citizens and wish to treat them fairly.

    Vote NO in NOvember!

  5. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 10/26/2012 - 01:56 pm.


    My son-in-law is a public school teacher in California. He teaches middle school health and physical education and is required by the state to present homosexuality as an equal option lifestyle as heterosexuality to his students. He is just as conservative as I am, so I asked him how he handles it. He doesn’t. He skips over it in the curriculum, he said. Then I asked him what will happen if the administration finds out. It might fire him, he said, but he’s in a sparsely populated area and there’s no one to replace him. The chances are the administration will look the other way. Some teachers might not be as fortunate as my son-in-law. There is a possibility this issue could come up in Minnesota some day.

    • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 10/26/2012 - 02:21 pm.

      Teachers should teach the curriculum provided….

      that is the way to stop bigotry and hate. Skipping over something as normal as same-sex relationships, which these students will learn about anyway, whether in life or on television, is not doing them any favors. In fact, it hurts. Why? Because when teachers fail to teach what the curriculum, the message sent to children is “this is bad” and I don’t want to talk about it. What a insidious method of continuing hatred and bigotry in perpetuality. Wouldn’t it be better to educate children to our diversity and start the process of ending hatred and bigotry?

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/26/2012 - 03:02 pm.

      I’d want to see the curriculum

      Every teacher I’ve ever known picks and chooses from the established curriculum. Some more than others, and some to a greater degree of variance than others, but following any curriculum “lock-step” is more or less antithetical to the “American way,” and in my 30 classroom years, I don’t remember encountering anyone who actually followed any semester-length curriculum “to the letter.” If your son is blatant (and loud) about ignoring the curriculum, then yes, there might be some consequences, just as there might be consequences to ANY teacher in ANY subject who made a public point of ignoring the curriculum. If I insist on teaching the Ptolemaic Universe as the “true” interpretation of planetary physics in our solar system, I’d get in some hot water, too.

      And, while he’s skipping over it in the curriculum, your son should keep in mind that sexuality is neither “liberal” nor “conservative.” It just IS. Humans are perhaps the most sexualized mammals on the planet, sexuality is as human as eating and breathing, and homosexuality has been around about as long as heterosexuality. You and your son may be uncomfortable with it, but homosexuality IS “an option,” whether it meets with your approval or not. Or mine, for that matter. Insisting on demonizing sexual tendencies that make you uncomfortable doesn’t make them go away. It mostly labels some people as second-class citizens, which ought not to be happening in any society, much less this one.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/27/2012 - 10:54 am.

      This could come up in Minnesota some day

      If what you say is true, a teacher is breaking the rules, deliberately and with impunity. Rather than discipline him for it, the administration is looking the other way.

      The system is protecting a “bad” teacher. Does Michelle Rhee know about this?

  6. Submitted by chuck holtman on 10/26/2012 - 01:57 pm.

    There are two approaches to parenting.

    The first is to teach your kids to think critically and form their own views about society, the world, what their responsibilities are as human beings and how to make meaningful and rewarding lives for themselves. My children grow up under a bombardment of indoctrinating messages with which my spouse and I profoundly disagree. But we feel that if we have done a good parenting job, our kids are equipped to confront, decipher and deflect these messages and in the process become even more capable people.

    The other parenting approach is the authoritarian approach: You don’t want your kids to learn to think critically, you want them to accept your values and make the choices you think they should make. The authoritarian parent feels much more threatened by contrary social messages because it’s just a battle of one form of indoctrination (parental) versus another (social) for the mind of a kid who doesn’t have the capacity to participate actively in the critical evaluation of either and is simply the passive register of the outcome.

    Authoritarians like the Parkers also are less able to deal with social messages with which they disagree because authoritarians dominate our social discourse. They are not used to encountering elements of the social discourse that do not reflect their own view of the world. We non-authoritarians, on the other hand, are quite used to living in a society where the flux of indoctrinating messages is at all turns contrary to what we think and believe. Put another way, authoritarians like the Parkers have an awfully difficult time pulling on their big boy pants.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/26/2012 - 03:07 pm.

    Minnesota Does Not Mandate School Curriculum Statewide

    That’s the number one falsehood in this ad. The only thing that comes close to a statewide mandate is the material contained in the standardized tests all kids must take.

    Now if the testing companies included questions regarding important historical GLBT figures, or questions regarding the history of GLBT rights, etc., or used same-gender headed families in the internal examples of the test, I suppose teachers would feel as if they had to teach to the tests (as they already must do in many other ways),…

    but lacking that, all curriculum in Minnesota is determined by the local school district, whose school board the local populace has the power to replace, and, ultimately, by the teachers of that subject in local schools.

    Of course teachers could be forced by anti-discrimination law suits leveled at their schools NOT to include items in their curricula that are denigrating or derogatory toward GLBT folks (who are, after all, protected by the state human rights statute),

    but any school district that mandated that their teachers PROMOTE GLBT (as opposed to promoting acceptance of the GLBT folks around them as acceptable, respectable human beings), would find itself in a world of trouble with the local population.

  8. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 10/26/2012 - 03:30 pm.


    If you–and you are uniquely suited for this–read the appellate court order, it’s pretty clear that Massachusetts has curricular standards and that districts, schools and teachers decide what materials to use to satisfy the learning targets in the standards. So “King & King” is not a state-mandated curriculum, but making sure elementary pupils can describe families is. There is also a great deal of discussion about the grades–all middle and higher–in which sexuality and sexual orientation come into the standards.

  9. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 10/27/2012 - 11:38 am.

    The Bible

    That God cannot lie, is no advantage to your argument, because it is no proof that priests can not, or that the Bible does not.
    Thomas Paine

  10. Submitted by Mike Stevens on 10/28/2012 - 01:25 pm.

    Marriage Admendment

    As a war vet ,Viet Nam (1969), I am appalled that this has become such a “gay” issue.
    A vote to make a constitutional admendment that discriminates against a class of people is WRONG.
    I am not for or against gay marriage. I am against discrimination.
    This is discrimination period.
    What’s next “marriage is one WHITE man and one WHITE woman,
    one BLACK man one BLACK woman”
    I’m voting “hell no”

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