Gay marriage in primary schools
If the Government finally succeeds in its attempt to redefine marriage, there could be far-reaching implications for the school curriculum and for teaching staff in both primary and secondary schools.
According to a legal opinion prepared by John Bowers QC on behalf of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), schools could be required to teach pupils about the importance of same-sex marriage and teachers could face disciplinary action for refusing to use materials endorsing marriage between two men or two women.
The law requires sex education lessons in maintained schools to teach pupils about ‘the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children’.
Up until now, that has been a welcome, albeit oft-neglected, provision. Vigilant parents have been able to appeal to the law when trying to encourage schools to highlight the benefits of marriage.
However, if marriage were to be redefined, learning about ‘the nature of marriage’ and ‘its importance for family life’ would take on a new meaning. It would involve subjecting pupils to teaching about same-sex marriage being on the same basis as marriage between a man and a woman, and each type of marriage being of equal importance to family life.
This indoctrination could begin from the beginning of primary school. Although primary school governing bodies have discretion as to whether or not they provide sex education, most do.
Sex education in primary schools is widely promoted by local authorities and, as the Family Education Trust report Unhealthy confusion demonstrates, in many parts of the country, primary schools are facing pressure to provide sex education as a condition of achieving the coveted Healthy Schools award.
Unless the law covering sex education is amended, primary schools that provide sex education would be obliged to give positive and non-discriminatory instruction about same-sex marriage, in the context of teaching ‘the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children’.
In fact, John Bowers QC is not convinced that opting out of sex education would protect primary schools that did not wish to broach the subject of same-sex marriage.
Aside from the law on sex education, he writes: ‘In my view the Public Sector Equality Duty imposed under Equality Act 2010 would provide a legitimate basis for including not just the fact of same sex marriage but also an endorsement of it as part of the curriculum’.
Already, primary school resources are available, aimed at normalising same-sex relationships in the minds of young children. These include story books and other resources. The C4M booklet Gay marriage in primary schools highlights 18 such titles, published between 1994 and 2010, many of them from mainstream children’s publishers.
For example, King & king tells the story of a queen who wants to arrange a marriage for her son. Many princesses are presented to him, but eventually he falls in love with the brother of one of them. They are then married and become king and king.
In the sequel, King & king & family, the newly-wedded kings find a little girl in the jungle and adopt her.
Many of the titles are self-explanatory: Mom and mum are getting married; Mommy, mama and me; Daddy, papa and me; Josh and Jaz have three mums (a natural mother and the same-sex couple they live with).
The innocuous-sounding My house tells the story of a five-year-old girl and her cat, two dogs and two mums. Long live Princess Smartypants is about a princess with an aversion to princes who wants a baby without a husband.
And, in Daddy’s roommate, a young boy discusses his divorced father’s new life, playing, living and sleeping with his homosexual roommate, and concludes, ‘Being gay is just one more kind of love’.
The 18 titles featured in the C4M booklet are promoted by the homosexual lobby group Stonewall, which is actively working with primary schools to ‘celebrate difference and talk about all different families’.
Many of the books are also recommended by some local councils. There can be no doubt that groups like Stonewall would lose no time in exploiting any redefinition of marriage, to promote same-sex marriage through the school curriculum.
Stonewall enjoys a close relationship with the Department for Education (DfE) and, in the government white paper, The importance of teaching, in 2010, was singled out as an organisation the DfE wished to work with, ‘to make sure sex and relationships education encompasses an understanding of the ways in which humans love each other and stresses the importance of respecting individual autonomy’.
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, subsequently told the House of Commons that he wanted to work with Stonewall to ‘ensure that the correct balance between inclusivity, tolerance and respect for innocence is maintained’.
While the Government has repeatedly insisted that, ‘No teacher will be required to promote or endorse views that go against their beliefs’, if marriage is redefined, both Aidan O’Neill QC and John Bowers QC are not so confident.
According to Aidan O’Neill, a teacher could be dismissed for refusing to comply with a head teacher’s request to use a book such as King & king, because it went against Christian convictions about marriage.
In the view of John Bowers, as the law stands, there would be a duty placed on teachers to promote the new definition of marriage, if the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill receives parliamentary approval in its present form.
He writes: ‘The stark position in my view is that a Christian teacher (or indeed any teacher with a conscientious objection) may have to teach about (and positively portray) a notion of marriage (and its importance for family life) which they may find deeply offensive’.
Schools would no longer be free to present ‘marriage between people of the opposite sex as positive and marriage between people of the same sex as less positive or negative’. In fact, they would have a legal duty to ‘positively promote same-sex marriage within sex and relationships education’; and no sex education teacher would have the right to refuse to teach about the ‘importance’ of same-sex marriage.
In Mr Bowers’ judgement, ‘Elevating one kind of marriage over another is likely to amount to indirect or direct discrimination’. In short, he writes that, ‘The position of the teacher who manifests a conscientious objection to [using materials endorsing same-sex marriage] is not enviable’.
According to a ComRes poll of teachers, 61 per cent of primary school teachers are concerned that expressing support for traditional marriage could damage a teacher’s career if marriage is redefined, while 19 per cent of teachers think it right that a teacher face disciplinary action for refusing to teach about same-sex marriage.
Christian parents and teachers should contact their MP to express their concerns about the implications of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for the curriculum and for teachers who support the traditional definition of marriage.
(Picture is from Gay marriage in primary schools — the impact of redefining marriage on education, published by Coalition for marriage)
The author is the Director of Family Education Trust and a director of the Coalition for Marriage