I doubt anybody who knows me (or has read much of this blog) is surprised to learn that I'm happy about yesterday's decision ruling Proposition 8 unconstitutional under the federal constitution. It seems to me that in any fair and just society, it ought not be possible for the majority to take away rights from a minority, unless there's a compelling reason to do so.
Somehow, I've managed to get on the National Organization for Marriage's mailing list, and of course they're angry about what happened yesterday. They fairly regularly say things that just don't make sense to me, so I'll start with a quote from Brian Brown talking about the advertisements the Yes on 8 campaign ran:
This was the ad's message: Gay marriage would be taught in the schools, whether parents like it or not. Is this true or not true?
The fact of the matter is that marriage between people of the same gender already exists. It's part of our reality already. It's the way that some people talk about their relationships even when the law doesn't recognize it (in some cases, religions are already marrying same-sex partners, and lamenting the fact that the law hasn't caught up.) I'm very good friends with a couple of lesbians who got married in Illinois a few years ago. From that point on, they started calling themselves married and referring to each other as wives, and the people around them (their friends and families) generally follow suit.
And even if somehow California's state law trumps that reality, it's still a reality that there are quite a few kids in classrooms that have two mothers or two fathers. While in a couple of states it's not legal for gay couples to adopt, even in some of those states there are ways for enterprising gay people to have children; it's a fact of life these days that there are family units headed by parents of the same gender.
Don't we want our schools to teach reality?
Of course, the arguments that schools shouldn't teach about realities that parents find unsettling are a bit pervasive from many of these people. To overgeneralize and lump them together, they tend to ignore the outcomes of science (a lot of these people are global warming deniers, or think that evolution is the wrong thing to teach in schools), they don't believe that comprehensive sex education is a good idea (in spite of peer-reviewed research that shows that abstinence-only education doesn't really work all that well), and they want to eliminate any sort of suggestion that being gay is part of the spectrum of natural behavior (in spite of evidence that therapy to change sexual orientation doesn't work and is harmful, and that there are plenty of examples in both history and biology of same-sex attractions).
It's a bit dishonest for supporters of gay marriage to say that the existence of gay marriage won't be brought up in school. But it's completely honest that the kinds of things that the opponents of marriage equality want to keep out of school are a bit more far-reaching than marriage: they don't want kids exposed to the idea that it's okay to end up in one of these relationships.
I guess if you believe that therapy to change sexual orientation works, then there's a risk of exposing kids to "teh gay" like this. But here's a news bulletin that NOM and the rest of the proponents of Proposition 8 don't seem to get: that sort of therapy doesn't work. The studies they cite to show that it does work are based on self-reports rather than observations of behavior, and tend to be short-term studies, and aren't inclusive of a representative sample of patients. And aren't peer reviewed. On the other hand, as some evidence that these programs don't work, we see plenty of advocates for them doing things like hiring rent boys to handle their luggage and provide erotic massage, or being sighted in gay bars.
Here's my point of view: exposure to the concept of same-sex attraction doesn't have the ability to turn straight people gay any more than exposure to the concept of opposite-sex attraction turns gay people straight. That's just not how it works. Sure, societal pressure and self-denial can get people in relationships that they otherwise wouldn't get into, but that really only explains gay people getting into unhappy relationships, not straight people turning gay. However, exposure to the fact that gay people exist does increase the chance that when someone realizes that he's gay, he won't fall into depression or engage in self-destructive behavior.
The ads the Yes on 8 campaign ran did suggest that passing proposition 8 would "protect children." Unfortunately, it seems that all it does is "protect" a worldview that gay people are a threat to children somehow, and this is something that the evidence doesn't bear out.
I'm not sure the following message makes sense in the context of a ballot referendum, but here's what I think was true: Proposition 8 really did have nothing to do with schools. Schools were (and are) going to teach about the fact that same-sex relationships exist, because that's part of the reality in which they exist, and when kids ask questions about things, most teachers will give an honest answer. Proposition 8 doesn't change this fact. But what's really true is that the opponents of marriage equality seem to be hell-bent on preventing schools from teaching about the facts of the world around them, as though somehow ignoring certain facts will make them go away.