Excerpts from a talk by Scott Fitzgibbons
Editor’s Note: If the information in this article disturbs you, please go to www.familyleader.net and learn about a new organization developed to help Meridian readers and their friends support marriage and family in the public square. Several states are dealing with same-sex marriage issues right now, and your help is urgently needed.
You hear it like a drumbeat. It is the most pervasive argument for same-sex marriage. People will say, “This is no big deal,” or “How will my neighbor’s same-sex marriage have any effect on me?”
At Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the issue of same-sex marriage, senators say, why are we wasting our time on this matter? Why don’t we spend our time on issues of poverty or health or the war in Iraq?
Last week Scott Fitzgibbons, a professor of law at Boston College, had an answer for that argument – a very sobering one. Here are excerpts from his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a Federal Marriage Amendment.
I am a resident of the only American jurisdiction which has adopted same-sex marriage. As a professor who writes and teaches on the subject of marriage, I have had occasion to examine the situation in Massachusetts and also in other jurisdictions which have legal provisions establishing same-sex marriage or similar institutions.
I am here to testify that these consequences are a significant matter and that they ought to raise grave concerns, both at the local and at the national level.
The practice of licensing same-sex couples as married has been in place in Massachusetts for only seventeen months. Plainly at this early moment we can only begin to surmise the full consequences of a development whose effects are sure to unfold across generations.
We can, however, detect the fact that developments to date have been rapid and continue to accelerate in several important sectors of the social order. This testimony . concludes that these developments are neither small nor exclusively local and that they merit the concern and attention of the nation as a whole.
Social and Moral Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage
The decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health brought about the recognition of same-sex marriage. in Massachusetts effective in May of 2004. As the effective date approached, Thomas W. Payzant, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, issued a memorandum to the Boston School System saying “[t]his is a historic moment in our Commonwealth and in our country” and that the Goodridge decision “has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on our civil life and discourse.”
Effects in Public Schools
One sector in which this effect is already pronounced is that of education . As it filters through the schools it suppresses and chills debate and discussion. Superintendent Payzant in his memorandum warns grimly that he has “received some reports of inappropriate … speech.” He continues:
“It is important at this time, therefore, to reiterate our zero-tolerance policy, and to reinforce a message of respect for the law and for the differences and choices represented among our school population.
“Administrators, teachers, parents and students are reminded that no action or speech will be tolerated that results in harassment, discrimination, bias or intimidation toward any member of our community for any reason, including his/her sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.
“We urge school staff to report and act promptly on any incidents that may create a climate of intolerance in our schools. Such incidents will be considered a serious violation of the BPS Code of Discipline and of accepted standards of professional behavior, and will result in discipline up to and including expulsion of the responsible student or termination of the offending employee.”
After this, what would you advise a teacher who was conducting a class discussion? What would you advise a teacher who was advising a student with concerns about his social life? Observe: “no … speech will be tolerated that results in . discrimination [or] bias.” A teacher would take her career into her hands by encouraging an examination of the cons as well as the pros of SSM, or even of same-sex activities outside of marriage.
The way the memorandum is drafted, she violates the rules even if she has no bias; all she need do is say something that causes someone else to develop bias. If the teacher says nothing at all, she still may have to worry about an obligation to blow the whistle if one of her students says something unpleasant (“report and act promptly on any incidents that may create a climate of intolerance”). And as to advising a student about concerns in his social life, the mind boggles. He better not exhibit bias in the way he conducts it.
Beyond chilling discussion and debate as to the negative aspects and the contra-SSM position, the effect of this social movement is to encourage the introduction of vivid and sometimes graphic presentation of various sexual practices. The following is an excerpt from the National Public Radio program All Things Considered in which an eighth-grade teacher in a public school in the Boston area testifies:
[Teacher] In my mind, I know that, `OK, this is legal now.’ If somebody wants to challenge me, I’ll say, `Give me a break. It’s legal now.’
SMITH: And, [she] says, teaching about homosexuality is also more important now. She says the debate around gay marriage is prompting kids to ask a lot more questions, like what is gay sex, which [she] answers thoroughly and explicitly with a chart.
[Teacher]: And on the side, I’m going to draw some different activities, like kissing and hugging, and different kinds of intercourse. All right?
SMITH: [She] asks her students to fill in the chart with yeses and nos .
… [A]nd we talk – and we discuss that.”
Indoctrinating Public School Students
The effect of the Goodridge decision has been to encourage the indoctrination of public school students in the merits of legalization of SSM. Thus Superintendent Payzant’s memorandum exhorts the Boston Public School teachers to use ‘this historic moment’ as:
“[An] opportunity to help our students understand it as a vital manifestation of some of the principles that have shaped our system of government – such as rule of law, balance of powers, and separation of church and state – as well as another step in our continuing efforts to create a more just society for all of our citizens.”
In other SSM jurisdictions, similar pressures have been felt:
In the wake of Canada‘s legalization of same-sex marriage, a human-rights complaint has been filed in British Columbia alleging the absence of pro-homosexual instruction in public schools is a denial of equal treatment.
The development underscores the concerns of same-sex marriage opponents in the United States who argue legalization would force schools to teach about homosexual behavior as a positive, alternative lifestyle for children.
Murray and Peter Corren, who were given a marriage license last July, concede the province-wide curriculum is not anti-homosexual, but complain its omissions have the effect of “enforcing the assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual.”
“Basically, there is systemic discrimination through omission and suppression of queer issues in the whole of the curriculum,” said Murray Corren in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.
Corren, an elementary school teacher in Coquitlam, B.C., said that with the legalization of same-sex marriage, the education ministry needs to update its approach to issues surrounding homosexuality.
[The issues of same-sex marriage and gay rights] “are going to come into the classrooms, whether people like it or not,” Corren told the Sun. “It’s a fact, it’s a reality now in Canada.”
Corren says the province’s social studies curriculum refers to aboriginals, women and multiculturalism, but has no mention of what Corren defines as the “queer population,” the Vancouver paper said.
He wants that changed to include: “Queer history and historical figures, the presences of positive queer role models … the contributions made by queers to various epochs, societies and civilizations, and legal issues relating to [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered] people, same-sex marriage and adoption.”
Effects as Regards Parental Authority over Education
Inevitably initiatives such as those described above bring school administrators into conflict with concerned parents. This sort of conflict is vividly illustrated by the case of David Parker, a father who became concerned when he found that his five-year-old son had been given a book which dealt with same-sex parenting as part of the educational program of the Lexington, Massachusetts Public School system.
School officials refused to assure Mr. Parker that he would receive notice before his son was exposed to further presentations along these lines. Discussions apparently broke down; Mr. Parker refused to leave; officials called the police; and Mr. Parker was arrested and spent the night in jail. And, in a less dramatic confrontation which did not result in an arrest, Newton parents were ejected from school grounds where they were recording a “gay pride” presentation.
It would be incorrect to say that those of us who have children in Massachusetts public schools go about in fear of arrest, but it is the case that same-sex-relationship educational programs lead almost inevitably to a situation of tension and adversity between teachers and school officials, on the one hand, and those numerous parents who adhere to ethical beliefs and belong to religious communities which disfavor those practices, on the other.
The situation bears close comparison with that of abortion, which, like same-sex marriage, was imposed by the courts against the wishes of many Americans, and in conflict with the religion and morality by which most citizens have been guided, and which has therefore been made available through school clinics without parental involvement.
Under those circumstances, the incentive is great for school systems to be reticent or less than candid about their programs. Last year the reporter for the local newspaper, the Newton Tab, was ejected from among those observing a “gay pride” presentation on the grounds of a Newton, Massachusetts school. And ensuing upon the Parker arrest, school official William J. Hurley wrote to Parker: “‘If you are found on Lexington public schools’ properties you will be subject to arrest by the Lexington police . Access to school properties can only be accomplished with prior written authorization from the superintendent of schools or his designee.”
More recently, the Lexington Superintendent of Schools has issued a memorandum which acknowledges that “some parents have requested they be notified whenever their child has access to any material, conversation, or activity that acknowledges differences in sexual orientation, including any reference to families with same-gender parents” but then goes on to rule that:
“[S]taff has no obligation to notify parents of discussions, activities, or materials that simply reference same-gender parents or that otherwise recognize the existence of differences in sexual orientation. Accordingly, I expect teachers to continue to allow children access to such activities and materials to the extent appropriate to children’s ages, to district goals of respecting diversity, and to the curriculum.”
It is not unlikely that just as courts have extended the right to abortion to the point of striking down parental consent laws, so also they might extend a right to same-sex relationships to the point of striking down provisions protecting a parent’s access to information and a parent’s right to influence school activities in this area …
For a complete record of Scott Fitzgibon’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, go to http://judiciary.senate.gov/
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.