Fact Check: Protect Marriage Maine, “Local Schools”
CONTACT: David Farmer, (207) 557-5968
Marriage Opponents Replay Old, Misleading Attacks
PORTLAND – Protect Marriage Maine continues its pattern of deceptive advertising with a new 30-second ad that tries to scare the parents of school-aged children.
The claim that schools will teach children about same-sex marriage was debunked in 2009 and disavowed later by the campaign manager who ran the effort to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law that year. Nonetheless, opponents of the freedom to marry are trying again.
“We know that children learn their values at home from their parents. No law will change that,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “Question 1 will allow same-sex couples to receive a marriage license while protecting religious freedom. It will not change education policy or any curriculum, which is set at the local level in Maine. Opponents of marriage are bringing back a misleading argument from 2009 that they themselves have admitted is not accurate. It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.”
From the ad:
“If gay marriage happens here, schools could teach that boys can marry boys.”
“After Massachusetts redefined marriage, local schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended.”
“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.”
“If Question 1 passes, same-sex marriage could be taught in local Maine schools, just as it was in Massachusetts.”
“Don’t make the same mistake and think that gay marriage won’t affect you.”
“Please vote No on Question 1.”
In January 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District issued this summation of the case:
In January 2005, when Jacob Parker (“Jacob”) was in kindergarten, he brought home a “Diversity Book Bag.” This included a picture book, Who's in a Family?, which depicted different families, including single-parent families, an extended family, interracial families, animal families, a family without children, and – to the concern of the Parkers – a family with two dads and a family with two moms. The book concludes by answering the question, “Who’s in a family?”: “The people who love you the most!” The book says nothing about marriage. (page 8)
Claim 1: Schools could teach boys to marry boys
Question 1 is about allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license from the state while also protecting the religious freedom of clergy, churches, religious institutions and denominations. It does not change educational policy or impact school curricula, which is determined in local school districts.
Claim 2: After Massachusetts redefined marriage, local schools taught it to children
This claim has been called misleading by Minnesota Public Radio: “There’s no evidence that same-sex marriage is taught throughout Massachusetts, and the state doesn’t require such curriculum.” In 2010, PolitiFact also examined this claim when it appeared in Rhode Island and called it false.
Claim 3: Courts ruled that parents had no right to take their children out of class or even be informed when this instruction was going to take place
As the Court of Appeals ruled: “Massachusetts does have a statute that requires parents be given notice and the opportunity to exempt their children from curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, § 32A. The school system has declined to apply this statutory exemption to these
plaintiffs on the basis that the materials do not primarily involve human sexual education or human sexuality issues.”
2009 Campaign manager admits ‘hyperbole’ about schools
At the conclusion of the 2009 campaign in which opponents of marriage repealed Maine’s law allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license, documentary filmmakers talk to the anti-marriage campaign manager, Marc Mutty. The clip is available here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADqimp6QU2o
“One of the problems I have, I know we need to do what we need to do – not only slam people over the head with a two-by-four, but a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it.”
“Unfortunately, I think it’s a lousy approach. But it’s the only thing we’ve got – it's the only way. That's the way campaigns work. And we use a lot of hyperbole. I think that’s always dangerous. We say things like, ‘Teachers will be forced to.’ Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t.”
Marriage opponents have a poor track record with their claims this year. Maine Today Media has written four Truth Checks about their campaign. In each case, the claims have been deemed “false,” “false,” “mostly false,” and “mostly false.” Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz said their ads were “so short on facts it’s scary,” and Kennebec Journal columnist Mike Tipping said they serve up lies.