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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine

Are the fears generated by anti-SSM ads valid?

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Much of the opposition to marriage equality being promoted by religious conservatives in their videos and TV ads is based on fear that if SSM is legalized in Maine:

  1. Lesbians and gays might launch lawsuits against individuals, companies and groups,
     
  2. Public schools would be required to promote homosexuality, and
     
  3. Churches and other religious institutions who disapprove of SSM and/or refuse to marry same-sex couples would lose their tax exempt status.

1. Fear of lawsuits:

The fear is that SSM would trigger large numbers of lawsuits against individuals, small businesses and religious groups by lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Fortunately, we have past examples to look at. SSM has been available in Massachusetts and Canada for many years. If lawsuits would materialize in Maine in the future over SSM, they certainly would have already have been launched in these other political jurisdictions.

In fact, very few such lawsuits have occurred. We were able to find one case in Canada involving a Christian religious group breaking a legal contract with a lesbian in 2003, but that is all.

We conclude that this fear is groundless, unless of course religious groups make contracts and then intentionally break them.

2. Fear of homosexual indoctrination in public schools:

The fear is that if SSM is allowed, public schools in Maine would have to change their course content in order to actively promote homosexuality.

Many citizens of main were apparently concerned over this matter after viewing some anti-SSM videos. They approached the Maine Department of Education with concerns over the possible future promotion of homosexuality in the public schools.

Commissioner Susan A. Gendron, asked Attorney General Janet T. Mills what implications the enabling legislation for SSM in Maine 1 -- would have on course content in the event that Question 1 -- the 2009 referendum -- is defeated.

AG Mills responded (in part):

"My office's analysis of the issue reveals no impact on the curricula of Maine's public schools."

LD 1020, as enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor on May 6, 2009, expands the availability of civil marriage to couples of the same gender. ..."

"I have scoured Maine laws relating to the education of its children for any references to marriage in the public school curricula. I have found none."

"As you are well aware, the guidelines for Maine?s public school curricula are established by the ?Maine Learning Results,? which set out educational standards for mathematics, reading, science and technology, as well as minimum graduation requirements in English, math, science and other core subjects. These guidelines are then reviewed at the local level as locally elected school boards determine the exact content of each district?s curricula. Nothing in state law dictates that any particular text books or other reading materials should be used or made available in the public schools."

"In fact, for parents concerned about educational practices in Maine, safeguards for persons with religious beliefs are already provided in the law: The Maine Learning Results statute, 20-A M.R.S.A. sec. 6209, requires 'accommodation provisions for instances where course content conflicts with sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of a student?s parent or guardian'."

"Thus, if parents with religious beliefs which do not permit them to vote do not wish their children to be taught about their duty to vote in civics classes, for instance, they could seek accommodation under this law. Likewise, parents with religious beliefs which prohibit dancing might seek accommodation for their child regarding physical education classes that involved dancing. (See Dept. of Educ. 05 071 CMR 127-3.07, which requires the local superintendent to make accommodations before asking the Commissioner for assistance.)."

"The political process, to which the courts often refer, also provides a recourse for families who wish to participate in the development of curricula in their local schools. See 20-A M.R.S.A. secs. 1001(6) & (10-A) (duty of the school board to 'approve educational materials')."

"I have reviewed the one Massachusetts case cited by certain advocates in opposition to the marriage measure passed by our legislature. That case, Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87 (1st Cir.2008), cert. den., 129 S.Ct. 56 (U.S.2008), does not stand for the proposition that any particular educational materials must be taught, used or referred to in that state?s public schools. That case declared, regardless of that state?s definition of marriage, that there is no federal First Amendment right to prior review of books made available in the public schools. The case does pointedly make reference to the parents? political recourse through the local school board."

"Importantly, there was no allegation in the Parker case of 'a formalized curriculum requiring students' to read books 'affirming gay marriage' or anything that constituted 'coercion' or any viable claim of 'indoctrination,' according to the court, ibid, 105-07; any such practices which offend religious beliefs would probably have been struck down. Nor did the decision turn on any provision of state law relating to either marriage or education."

"The holding of the Parker case would apply to any parents who might not want their child to be exposed to certain viewpoints in a public school, whether it be discussions limited only to traditional heterosexual marriage; or depictions of adoption families, foster care and other nontraditional family situations; or discussions of differing theories of government, religion, philosophy, science or history. Parker simply states that there is no automatic federal judicial remedy for such objections to educational materials."

"Whatever the benefits and burdens of the civil institution of marriage, the state's definition of marriage has no bearing on the curricula in our public schools, either under current law or under LD 1020. Neither the Parker decision nor passage of LD 1020 'requires' or 'allows' the teaching of any particular subject in our schools, in answer to the citizen question attached to your letter."

"What is taught in private or religious schools, of course, may include the principles and religious tenets of those organizations regarding family institutions and other subjects, and nothing in LD 1020 would change that prerogative of private or religious institutions to instill those beliefs in their children either at home or at their schools." 2 (Emphasis by us)

This fear appears to be groundless as well.

3. Fear that churches would lose their tax-exempt status:

The fear is that church organizations could lose their tax exempt status because of their conscientious objection to same-sex marriage.

Churches and other tax exempt groups are always at risk of losing their tax status if they choose to be actively engaged in the political process -- for example by urging their congregation to vote for specific candidates. However, we have been unable to find any cases where churches have lost their tax status because of their social teachings, theological teachings, or simply because their pastor read some of the Bible's "clobber passages."

The Roman Catholic Church has taught for over a millennia that women are not eligible for ordination; so have many other conservative faith groups. Catholic priests have occasionally refused to marry couples if the man is physically disabled. Some faith groups have promoted racial segregation and taught racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, xenophobia, hatred and/or denigration of other religions, etc. for years.

The only case of which we are aware where there was some agitation to have the government remove a tax status involved The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' because of its racism. That never materialized and was made unnecessary when the main Mormon Church received what they sincerely believed was a revelation from God many decades ago, and started to ordain African American males.

Attorney General Janet T. Mills' letter referred to above states:

"The enabling legislation for SSM in Maine (LD 1020, PL 2009, ch. 82, "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom") ... allows a specific religious conscience exception, prohibiting any court or state or local governmental entity from interfering with any religious institution's policy or teachings."

So, we conclude that this fear is groundless as well.

Conclusions:

If marriage equality is achieve in Maine:

bulletThere is little or no danger of numerous lawsuits launched by lesbians, gays or bisexuals, if experience in other political jurisdictions is any indication.
 
bulletNo significant changes would be required in the public school curricula.
 
bulletThere is no danger of religious groups losing their tax exempt status because of their rejection of SSM or refusal to marry same-sex couples. Of course, such religious groups are in danger of losing members -- particularly youth and young adults -- who regard homophobia as an evil comparable to sexism, racism, and religism (hatred and denigration of other religions).

Site navigation:

Home> Religious info.> Basic> Marriage> SSM> Menu> Maine> here

Home> "Hot" topics> Homosexuality> SSM> Menu> Maine> here

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "LD 1020: An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom," Main Legislature, at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/ It is available in MS-Word, RTF or PDF formats.
  2. Susan A. Gendron, "Attorney General Mills Issues Opinion on the Implications of LD 1020 on Maine School Curricula," Maine Attorney General, 2009-OCT-15, at: http://www.maine.gov/

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2009-OCT-18
Latest update: 2009-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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