Marriage amendment proponents raise specter of same-sex marriage taught in schools

Minnesota for Marriage TV advertisement
Screenshot of Minnesota for Marriage TV advertisement.

A new television ad from supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage claims that if marriage is redefined, children could be taught about same-sex marriage in school.

It's an ad strategy that's been effective in other states in passing amendments like the one Minnesota is considering, which would define marriage in the state constitution as only between a man and a woman.

This fourth ad from Minnesota for Marriage, the main group working to pass the amendment, features a Massachusetts couple, David and Tonia Parker. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Two years later, the Parkers sued their son's school after his teacher read a book to second graders that featured a prince marrying another prince.

"The courts ruled parents had no right to take their children out of class or to even be informed when this instruction was going to take place," said David Parker in the ad.

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

In 2007, a Massachusetts judge dismissed the Parkers' lawsuit, saying parents don't have a constitutional right to dictate what is taught in public school. The case also lost on appeal.

Fact-checkers, including Minnesota Public Radio's Poligraph, have labeled the claims in the ad "misleading," since the Massachusetts school was using the book as part of diversity curriculum which pre-dates the legalization of same-sex marriage.

"If the amendment is defeated, the state's ban on same-sex marriage, or what's taught in schools, will not automatically change," MPR reporter Catharine Richert concluded in her analysis.

Minnesota for Marriage spokeswoman Autumn Leva contends marriage laws do influence curriculum, and failure to pass the amendment could pose problems for families who disagree with same-sex marriage.

"That puts parents and pastors who believe that marriage is between one man one woman -- they're teaching kids at home and at church one thing, and then kids go to school and learn a same-sex union is the same as a traditional marriage," said Leva. "That's a problem for many parents, many pastors, and it's confusing for kids."

The book in the ad, a children's book called "King & King," is already being used in the Minneapolis Public Schools, according to Leva. The school district wasn't able to immediately confirm whether that's the case.

The new Minnesota for Marriage ad is running statewide, in a $750,000 ad buy that could rise to $1 million.

In an email to their supporters, amendment opponents are calling it Minnesota for Marriage's "most deceptive TV ad yet."

Kate Brickman, spokeswoman for Minnesotans United for All Families, said children learn their most important values at home from their parents, including how to be kind to other people.

"It's clear that supporters of the amendment don't want to debate the issue that's actually at hand before voters on November 6th, and that's whether we're going to limit the freedom to marry in the state of Minnesota," she said.

Another new ad to hit radio airwaves Thursday also references kids. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who's been an outspoken opponent of the marriage amendment, teamed up with Minnesotans for Equality to produce an ad targeting independent voters.

In the spoof, Kluwe gets a visit from government agents who question him about his two daughters, saying they "don't like the way you're raising them" because he doesn't care if "they grow up to marry a man or a woman."

"My wife and I believe when our girls are adults, they should be free to marry whoever they love. As Americans, we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Kluwe responds in the ad.

"Yes. We know," the agents say. "That's why we're changing the constitution."

The Kluwe ads will run on radio stations in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and Rochester that skew male, Republican and independent.

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