The Culture Wars: Court Sides With District on Promoting Tolerance for Same-Sex Marriage

By Mark Walsh — January 31, 2008 1 min read
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A federal appeals court today ruled against two Massachusetts families who objected to their children being exposed in public school to books and discussions promoting tolerance for gay marriage and families led by same-sex couples.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, ruled unanimously that the Lexington, Mass., school system did not violate the rights of the parents or children by exposing them to books that they found objectionable on religious grounds.

One family objected to their child being presented in kindergarten and 1st grade with two books that portrayed diverse families, including families with same-sex parents. The other family objected to a 2nd grade teacher’s reading to their son’s class a book that celebrated gay marriage.

The families challenged the school system’s refusal to provide them with prior notice of such lessons and to allow their children to be exempted from them until 7th grade. Their suit cited their First Amendment free exercise of religion rights and their parental and privacy rights under the 14th Amendment’s due-process clause.

In a lengthy opinion in Parker v. Hurley, the 1st Circuit panel said, “There is no free exercise right to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations.”

Regarding the student who heard a reading on gay marriage, the court said there was no evidence the school system had sought to indoctrinate the boy on the issue or require him “to affirm gay marriage.”

“Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas,” the court said.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.