Australia’s Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham recently rubbished the idea that legalised same-sex marriage would seriously impact on education. “It is patently ridiculous,” he said, “to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to marry is somehow going to see some new wave of teaching reform sweep through the country.”
The Minister has not done his homework.
Even a simple Google search brings to light plenty of evidence to the contrary. The USA experience is there for all to see. For example, writing in 2011 when same sex marriage had been legalised in only seven American states, Professor Lynn Wardle, writing in the Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, systematically documents 40 pages of abuses of student, administration, employee and parental rights.
“The impact of legalizing same-sex marriage upon education is no longer a matter of conjecture, hypothesis or speculation,” he wrote. Legalisation has had “serious, profoundly controversial, and arguably detrimental impact upon public education in the real world”.
Wardle demonstrates how the legalisation of same sex marriage must, as a matter of law, impact upon educational curriculum, and therefore on the education of students and the rights of parents.
As a matter of elementary legal analysis, if the meaning of marriage changes, education laws and policies that require or allow teaching about marriage, family life, and marital sexuality compel that the curriculum change also. Just as Physics curriculum must change if the number of planets changes (poor Pluto!), or Chemistry teaching must change if the number of chemical elements in the periodic table increases, when the meaning of marriage changes it must be reflected in the curriculum that covers that subject.
And remember, curriculum in Australia is far, far more prescriptive than in the United States.
He classifies four main areas of impact. The first involved “ideological indoctrination of students through curriculum and teaching, policies and programs that favor homosexual relations”. He lists numerous abuses of personal and parental rights, citing first of all a case involving children in the first two years of school in Massachusetts who were given books designed to teach acceptance of same-sex relationships. The parents fought the school district in the courts and lost.
He writes, “There are indications that the use of public schools and school policies to promote indoctrination favoring acceptance of homosexual relations and lifestyles will continue, if not increase. Gay tolerance materials were mailed several years ago to 15,000 school districts.”
His second critical area involved, “suppressing dissenting viewpoints, speech, and expressions by students, teachers, guest lecturers, school administrators, and educational organizations, including employment discrimination in hiring, disciplining, firing”.
He notes that after the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (a type of Minister of Education) made “the chilling declaration that speech that results in bias against gays and lesbians or discrimination (presumably by anyone) will not be tolerated.”
Third, he notes the disregarding and undermining of parental rights and family interests in the moral education of their children. After citing clear instances where parents had been sidelined in the US he notes similarities to the Canadian experience, where under Canadian law generally: “[t]here is no opportunity for parents to withdraw their children if they disagree with this indoctrination.”
He quotes Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University:
Obviously, the earlier this indoctrination begins, the better its chances of overriding traditional values. The question is not how urgently children in kindergarten need to be taught about sex [or gay families] but how important it is for indoctrinators to get an early start.
His fourth area of documented concern is “detrimental impacts upon religions, religious beliefs, religious speech, religious believers, religious schools, and religion’s interaction with education.” Again he provides a long list of specific infringements of religious rights. For example he points out that Jewish and Catholic affiliated universities are required to recognise and fund gay clubs on their campuses and provide housing for same-sex couples.
Senator Birmingham, that sounds like a rather comprehensive list of effects. Why were you so quick to discount them? Should you use your position as a Minister to argue for your personal preferences in this plebiscite? Couldn’t there be something deeply wrong with CEOs of big companies, Presidents of the AMA and the Law Society, and a Commonwealth minister, using their platforms to influence a conscience vote? And if they have the boldness to do so, shouldn’t they stick to the facts?
Dr Andrew Mullins was the Headmaster of Redfield College and Wollemi Colleges in Sydney for 18 years. He is the author of Parenting for Character. He now works with university students in Melbourne.