SAN FRANCISCO The debate in California over whether "gay marriage" legalization would impact what is taught in public schools heated up Oct. 10, when a San Francisco first-grade class took a field trip to city hall to help celebrate a lesbian wedding.
The 18 first graders from Creative Arts Charter School, a public school took the field trip to surprise their teacher, Erin Carder, who had just "married" her partner, Kerri McCoy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Following the ceremony the children tossed pink rose petals and blew bubbles on the women, the newspaper said. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom officiated the "wedding."
The field trip comes as both sides of the debate over Proposition 8 California's proposed constitutional marriage amendment argue in advertisements whether "gay marriage" would impact what is taught in public schools. The field trip seems to support the arguments of Prop 8 supporters.
Liz Jaroslow, the school's interim director, told the newspaper the ceremony was a "teachable moment." At least one of the students wore a "No on 8" button. But Chip White, press secretary for ProtectMarriage.com, the main group behind the Yes on 8 campaign, disagreed.
"It's totally unreasonable that a first grade field trip would be to a same-sex wedding," White said in a statement. "This is overt indoctrination of children who are too young to understand it."
The ProtectMarriage.com website says the "wedding" demonstrates that "unless Prop. 8 passes, children will be taught about same-sex marriage in public schools."
"Not only can it happen, it has already happened," White said.
Prop 8, if passed, would reverse a May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing "gay marriage." That ruling overturned a voter-approved initiative from 2000 that protected the natural definition of marriage. It passed by 61 percent of the vote.
The Yes on 8 campaign has launched two television advertisements, both of which include references to the controversy over public schools. The latest ad focuses solely on the issue of schools, showing an elementary school girl arriving home from school and saying, "Mom, guess what I learned in school today. ... I learned how a prince married a prince and I can marry a princess." She then hands her mom a copy of the children's book "King & King," an illustrated story of a prince marrying a prince. Richard Peterson of the Pepperdine University School of Law then appears in the commercial and says, "Think it can't happen? It's already happened. When Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, schools began teaching second-graders that boys can marry boys. The courts ruled parents had no right to object." The case Peterson alludes to took place in federal court, where parents of a Lexington, Mass., elementary school child sued after a teacher read a copy of "King & King" in class. The court ruled against the parents.
The No on 8 campaign says on its website that "not one word in Prop 8 mentions education, and no child can be forced, against the will of their parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues at school." Two families did opt out of the field trip.
Parents who attended the "wedding" said they didn't think it was a big deal.
"How many days in school are they going to remember?" parent Marc Lipsett was quoted as asking in the Chronicle. "This is a day they'll definitely remember."
But Santa Ana Unified School District board member Rosemarie "Rosie" Avila said the field trip simply underscores the need for voters to pass Prop 8.
"Prop. 8 protects our children from being taught in public schools that 'same-sex marriage' is the same as traditional marriage," she said in a news release. "We should not accept a court decision that results in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is OK. That is an issue for parents to discuss with their children according to their own values and beliefs. It shouldn't be forced on us against our will."