Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote "No" on Prop 8 Part IV: Who's Lying? You Are. You're Still Lying

Sorry to be repetitive about being sorry about being repetitive, but bigotry makes me angry.

So since my last post, the "Yes" people dropped a press release entitled "Who's Really Lying" wherein they quoted themselves talking about a lawsuit in Massachusetts where a kid's teacher assigned a book called "King and King" wherein a prince, who is forced to get married by his mother (some things are universal), chooses another prince over a bunch of princesses. The Judeo-Christian parents get upset, because they did not get prior notice or the opportunity to pull their kid out of class. They cite this case as "proof" that same sex marriage will be taught in California Schools.

Let's get a few things straight here.

1. Same sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts now for over 4 years. And like California, its system is very decentralized: meaning each school district, each school, and even each teacher has a part in choosing the curriculum. Let's say this case actually stands for the assertion for which the Prop 8 proponents say it does. This means that in four and half years since the legalization of gay marriage, there have been two instances (there are actually two families involved, see below, and the Prop 8 people seized on the worst sounding one) where teachers assigned a book to a kid whose parents found it objectionable, so as to actually start a federal case on the matter.

I went into law because I'm bad at math, but that doesn't sound that bad to me. When I was in high school, teachers were getting into problems for assigning all kinds of books that some parents found objectionable. And for any teachers out there, I'm sure this seems sort of silly.

2. The case the Prop 8 proponents are talking about is called Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 2008). Some of you might say, "Hey, what is a dispute about school curriculum doing in a federal court of appeals, the court right below the Supreme Court?" Well, the First Circuit agrees with you.

The parents sued on federal constitutional claims (specifically, First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and Fourteenth Amendment's fundamental substantive due process right to "parental autonomy") (the irony of these people, who are so obviously pro-life, trying to assert a substantive due process claim based on the penumbra of the 14th amendment is not lost on me).

The court noted that Massachusetts law allowed for parental notification for some topics (sex ed), but nothing else. I don't want to get into it, but schools have to really really screw up before it becomes a constitutional violation, like actual "indoctrination" against religious beliefs. Which is kind of what the Prop 8 proponents claim is happening. But no one is teaching children to be homosexual or that they have to get married to someone of the same sex. These books were, as mentioned in the case (and why they didn't fall into the "notification" part of the Massachusetts law), part of a broader curriculum of showing diversity, tolerance, and teaching what prejudice is (ironically enough).

So basically, the Court said there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits this. I want to say that again, NOTHING IN THE CONSTITUTION. This WAS NOT the court saying that schools must teach children that they should be gay, which is how the Prop 8 people are portraying it. The Court merely said that there is a high burden before a plaintiff parent can establish that a public school is violating their constitutional rights. And this wasn't enough to establish a claim.

3. Interestingly enough, the other plaintiffs in the case were objecting to the inclusion of a book called "Who's in a Family" that was part of a "Diversity Book Bag." The book depicted different families, including single-parent families, an extended family, interracial families, animal families, a family without children, and here's the ringer, a family with two dads and a family with two moms. The book concludes by answering the question in the title: Who's in a family? The people who love you the most!" This is more obviously a part of a diversity curriculum.

4. This was in Massachusetts, a different state, with a different set of standards. And since this press release has come out, the California Teachers Association as well as other state officials have stated that the existence of same sex marriage does not mandate the teaching of same sex marriage in schools. It doesn't mandate so now, and it won't when prop 8 fails.



Strange Bird said...

Penumbras! AH! My eyes!

the default attorney said...

You don't love me. You just love my penumbras.

Melissa said...

Wasn't there also a major movie about this same topic last year? You know, before gay people could get married in California. Clearly the idea of a platonic marriage for economic or legal reasons would have never entered the children's minds without a book shown to them in school.