September 28, 2007
Teaching gay to seven year-olds
Posted by: Chris
As far as the candidates were concerned, they acted according to form: Edwards tried to suck up, Obama tried to be inspirational, and Clinton basically punted.
Here's the background, via AP, though you can read the entire debate excerpt if you follow the jump to this post:
The Democrats were asked during a debate Wednesday night whether they would be comfortable with having a story about same-sex marriage read to their children as part of their school curriculum, as a second-grade teacher did last year in Lexington, Mass.
The top-tier Democratic candidates — Clinton, Obama and Edwards — generally said they favor teaching children tolerance for others, including gays and lesbians. They did not expressly embrace or reject including the same-sex marriage as part of a second-grade curriculum.
Edwards, who has a 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, said he wants his children "to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day," but added that teaching such issues might be "a little tough."
Obama, who has daughters ages 6 and 9, said his wife has discussed same-sex marriage with their children and urged them "not to be afraid of people who are different."
Clinton said, "With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion ..."
For me, Obama's reaction was the strongest, and is worth the read in full on the jump. Edwards tried to segue-way into his gay rights sound byte and Clinton just avoided the question.
The reaction to the Democrats was swift and predictable, and the mainstream media badly mangled the coverage. Mitt Romney, who has turned out to be as craven politically as is basically imaginable, released a statement that suggested the top Dems were in favor of sex education for second graders. Again, from AP:
Republican Mitt Romney criticized his Democratic rivals Thursday for not rejecting the inclusion of gay-related issues in sex education for second-graders.
"Last night's debate was just the latest example of how out of touch the Democratic presidential candidates are with the American people," Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. "Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade."
The role of public education is to teach our young people about the world around them. The existence of gay people isn't something that should be hidden simply because some people object to us. It's ridiculous that Hillary Clinton would suggest that parents should decide when or whether children can learn that there are gay couples in the world.
If our relationships are entitled to equal treatment under the law, as she keeps claiming we are with "civil unions," then there should be no debate about when children learn about gay couples: It should be whenever they discuss straight couples.
Romney is guilty here of a phenomenon that extends far beyond him, to many gays actually. The equating of gay relationship with sexuality. How many times have you heard closeted friends say, "I don't talk about being gay at work because what I do in bed is none of their business." John McCain has used similar language, as if gay relationships were uniquely sexual and private and "in the bedroom," while straight relationships are appropriate for cocktail parties, photos on office desks and office chit-chat.
Debate transcript excerpt from CFR.org:
MR. RUSSERT: I'd like to go to Alison King of New England Cable News again for another question. Alison.
MS. KING: Thanks, Tim.
The issues surrounding gay rights have been hotly debated here in New England. For example, last year some parents of second graders in Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn their children's teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who marries another prince.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, but most of you oppose it. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your children as part of their school curriculum?
I'm going to start with Senator Edwards.
MR. EDWARDS: Yes, absolutely.
What I want is I want my children to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day, the discrimination that they're faced with every single day of their lives. And I suspect my two younger children -- Emma Claire, who's nine, and Jack, who's seven -- will reach the same conclusion that my daughter, Cate, who's 25, has reached, which is she doesn't understand why her dad is not in favor of same-sex marriage, and she says her generation will be the generation that brings about the great change in America on that issue.
So I don't want to make that decision on behalf of my children. I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even in -- did you say second grade? Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed to all --
MS. KING: Well, that's the point is second grade.
MR. EDWARDS: -- to all of those possibilities because I don't want to impose my view. Nobody made me God. I don't get to decide on behalf of my family or my children, as my wife, Elizabeth, who's spoken her own mind on this issue. I don't get to impose on them what it is that I believe is right.
But what I will do as president of the United States is I will lead an effort to make sure that the same benefits that are available to heterosexual couples -- 1,100, roughly, benefits in the federal government -- are available to same-sex couples; that we get rid of DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act; that we get rid of "don't ask, don't tell," which is wrong today, was wrong when it was enacted back in the 1990s.
I will be the president that leads a serious effort to deal with the discrimination that exists today.
MS. KING: Thank you.
Senator Obama, you have young children at home. How do you feel about this?
SENATOR OBAMA: You know, I feel very similar to John: that -- you know, the fact is, my 9-year-old and my 6-year-old's -- I think, are already aware that there are same-sex couples. And my wife and I have talked about it.
And one of the things I want to communicate to my children is not to be afraid of people who are different, and because there have been times in our history where I was considered different, or Bill Richardson was considered different.
And one of the things I think the next president has to do is to stop fanning people's fears. You know, if we spend all our time feeding the American people fear and conflict and division, then they become fearful and conflicted and divided. And if we feed them hope, and we feed them reason and tolerance, then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful. And that, I think, is one of the most important things that the next president can do, is try to bring us together and stop trying to fan the flames of division that have become so -- so standard in our politics in Washington. That's the kind of experience, by the way, that we need to put an end to.
MS. KING: Quickly, have you sat down with your daughters to talk about same-sex marriage?
SENATOR OBAMA: My wife has.
MS. KING: Okay.
I'd like to ask Senator Clinton the same question.
SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I -- I really respect what both John and Barack said. I think that we've seen differences used for divisive purposes, for political purposes in the last several elections, and I think every one of us on this stage are really personally opposed to that and will do everything we can to prevent it.
With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion. I think that obviously it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make, and that goes far beyond sexual orientation.
So I think that this issue of gays and lesbians and their rights will remain an important one in our country. And I hope that -- tomorrow we're going to vote on the hate crimes bill, and I'm sure that those of us in the Senate will be there to vote for it. We haven't been able to get it passed, and it is an important measure to send a message that we stand against hatred and divisiveness. And I think that, you know, that's what the Democratic Party stands for in contrast all too often to the other side.
MS. KING: Thank you, Senator.
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