Opinion: What same-sex marriage doesn’t have to do with kindergarten

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The backers of Proposition 8 argue that the ban on same-sex marriage is about protecting school children.

From what?

According to the pro-Prop. 8 ballot argument -- which is being challenged in court, with the case expected to be heard today -- same-sex marriage isn’t about ‘live and let live.’ No, it contends, a continuation of same-sex marriage would force on our children, from the earliest years of grade school, a curriculum that teaches that gay marriage is fine.


‘State education laws require teachers to instruct children as young as kindergarteners about marriage,’ the argument reads. ‘If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, then teachers will be required to teach young children that there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage....That is an issue for parents to discuss with their children according to their own values and beliefs. It should not be forced on us against our will.’

The only problem is that everything about this argument isn’t just specious, it’s just wrong.

According to curriculum experts with the state Department of Education, Section 51890 of the Education Code -- the section cited by the Proposition 9 camp because it calls for teaching children about the legal and financial responsibilities of marriage -- is not a requirement for schools. It’s an expected part of instruction for school districts that want a state-funded health curriculum.

Things fall apart more when you get to the kindergarten thing. There is nothing in the Education Code about the age at which children should learn about marriage. The grades at which students should be taught certain subjects is contained on the content standards, and the standards for health education don’t mention marriage until high school, at which point students are supposed to learn about the differences between just-plain dating, committed relationships and marriage. The curriculum standards, by the way, aren’t mandated either. They are, as the Pirates of the Caribbean put it, more sort of guidelines.

I imagine that as part of this, high schoolers might indeed learn that same-sex marriage is legal in the state of California. And, call me crazy, but I think they can handle it.

Look at it this way. California teenagers also learn extensively about drugs in their health classes. As part of that, they might well hear that California has legalized the medical uses of marijuana. They’re certainly not being taught to go light up.


The court would be doing everybody a favor, even the Prop. 8 backers, to get this language off the ballot. It would save them from looking downright silly.

Photo courtesy of EPA/Olaf Kraak.