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Maine Teachers Won't Teach Marriage


Despite allegations by antigay groups, several school administrators in Maine say they don't think curricula will be affected if voters uphold the state's marriage equality law in the November 3 election.

Opponents of the law say it would require public schools to teach about same-sex marriage -- similar to the argument made by supporters of California's Proposition 8, which put an end to marriage equality in that state when voters approved it last year.

Susan Gendron, Maine's education commissioner, says "questions persist" about marriage equality's effect on school curricula, so she has asked state attorney general Janet Mills for an opinion on the matter, reports the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine. However, the paper also reports that some school superintendents predict there will be no effect on what is taught, and they have received few queries from parents on the topic.

"We don't teach hetero marriages," said William Shuttleworth, superintendent of a school district covering several towns in southern Maine. "Why would I teach gay marriages?" He said he has had only one parental inquiry on the matter.

Jim Morse, superintendent of schools for Portland, the state's largest city, told the Journal he has heard questions only from the media, not from parents. He said the district's high schools, in a class on family sexuality, show a 10-minute video dealing with different types of families, including those headed by single parents or same-sex couples, with the latter taking up about one minute of the video. The video shows "the reality of today -- you have all of these different families that don't look like the Leave It to Beaver families of the 1950s," he said.

"Do we go out of our way to teach anything beyond that?" he said. "We don't have time, and we're not required to by the state." The marriage equality law would not change that, he added.

The state legislature passed the law in May, but opponents gathered enough petition signatures to force a popular vote on it in the November election. One opponent, the Reverend Bob Emrich of Stand for Marriage Maine's executive committee, issued a statement saying Gendron's request for an opinion from Mills was merely a "political stunt," as Mills is on record as supporting marriage equality.

Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Protect Maine Equality, which is asking voters to uphold the law, issued his own statement, saying his group welcomes the opinion and thinks the debate over the law "should center on one question and one question only -- do we want to treat all Maine families equally under the law?"

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