Same-sex marriage has been legal in California since May, when the state’s highest court found that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Gay marriage opponents immediately started gathering signatures and got Proposition 8 on the ballot. Prop 8 would amend the state constitution by eliminating the right of these couples to marry.
Supporters of the measure (primarily the Mormon Church and other religious conservatives) have been pouring money into advertisements that suggest schools will be required by state law to teach kindergarteners about gay marriage.
These are extravagantly distorted claims and are clearly an attempt to scare undecided voters into supporting Prop 8. The fact is that the passage or failure of Prop 8 will have no impact on education in California. Jack O’Connell, the state’s public schools chief, said it himself this week, calling the ads alarming and irresponsible.
“Our public schools are not required to teach about marriage,” O’Connell said. “And, in fact, curriculum involving health issues is chosen by local school governing boards.“
Ted Mitchell, president of the State Board of Education, confirmed this.
“Let me be clear, there is nothing in California state law that would require the teaching of marriage and that will not change,” he said.
Though the state education code does say that instruction should “teach respect for marriage and committed relationships,” it’s not as simple as that, as Peter Schrag pointed out in a Sacramento Bee column last week. Local school districts must approve all educational materials before they enter the classroom, and parents have the right to opt out of sex education they find offensive.
The advertisements don’t stop at schoolchildren though. One online video put out by the Mormon Church (available online at preservingmarriage.org) essentially says if Prop 8 doesn’t pass, churches will be forced to accommodate gay marriage ceremonies, doctors morally opposed to homosexuality will be forced to artificially inseminate women in same-sex marriages and faith-based adoption agencies will be forced to allow gay couples to adopt.
Again, the fact is that the failure of Prop 8 would do none of these things. The legal definition of marriage in California has no bearing on any of these issues, and to suggest otherwise is misleading and contributes nothing of value to the debate.
Prop 8 is not about children or schools. It’s not about churches, and it’s not about doctors or adoption agencies. None of those things would change if Prop 8 fails.
This proposition is about amending the constitution to strip a civil right from an otherwise equal group of California citizens. That’s why Californians should look past the scare tactics and do the right thing: Vote no on Prop 8.