HARTFORD, Conn. — A proposed bill in Connecticut could force public schools to teach homosexuality as normal.
The bill would bring state law into conformity with a same-sex “marriage” court ruling issued last year and clarify the status of civil unions.
But critics of the bill say it goes beyond legislative housekeeping and would repeal another state law that protects public policy on a wide range of moral issues.
S.B. 899, “An Act Implementing the Guarantee of Equal Protection Under the Constitution of the State for Same-Sex Couples,” would remove references in marriage law to a man and a woman and redefine marriage as “the legal union of two persons.”
“Our big concern is that unless this bill is amended it could lead to a mandate to teach same-sex ‘marriage’ in the schools,” said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
Said Anne Stanback, executive director of the homosexual activist group Love Makes a Family, “I’m not sure where the basis for that concern is coming from, given that this bill has nothing to do with our state’s education curriculum. That said, same-sex couples live in every town in our state, and many of them have children in the schools. Those families must be embraced and included just like every family. Fortunately, the majority of Connecticut schools already do that.”
A second major concern is “how this bill will affect our Catholic organizations, such as Catholic Charities,” said Deacon David Reynolds, legislative liaison for the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the public and advocacy office of the Catholic bishops in Connecticut.
In Massachusetts, after the high court declared that allowing only heterosexual couples to marry is unconstitutional, the state required all adoption agencies — including Catholic Charities — to let same-sex couples adopt. This collision of state policy with Church teaching led the Archdiocese of Boston to close down its adoption program.
“Massachusetts is Exhibit A for why same-sex ‘marriage’ is bad for children, families and churches,” Wolfgang said. ”If this bill passes, it looks like Connecticut will very quickly be Exhibit B.”
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court acted as a legislature, and four justices imposed their idea of what the public policy in law ought to be in Connecticut,” said Republican legislator T. R. Rowe, a Judiciary Committee member. “That has made their allies in the Legislature, of whom there are many, emboldened to carry this agenda even further.”
Meanwhile, as a California court was to hear oral arguments March 5 on that state’s 2008 referendum effectively banning same-sex “marriage,” a bill has been introduced to legalize such unions. And Hawaii is now considering a civil union law.
Thomas More Law Center attorney Robert Muise, who has legally battled same-sex “marriage” in Massachusetts, had not seen S.B. 899, but explained that the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling is already the law of the land. Codifying the court’s ruling at this point, Muise said, “is like ‘Okay, so what?’ That’s maybe like belt and suspenders. The devil is in the details.”
Wolfgang said, the Family Institute is concerned about what is in the bill and what is not. Its most controversial clause — Section 17 — would repeal a 1991 statute which declares that nothing in Connecticut law can be interpreted to mean that the state condones homosexuality or requires schools to teach and promote homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
Judiciary Committee cochairman Mike Lawlor, D-East Haven, an advocate of the bill and a vocal supporter of same-sex “marriage,” said Section 17 simply repeals a 1991 statute passed in connection with a law that prevented sexual discrimination in employment and housing.
“There was concern then that [the 1991 statute] would be used as an argument to create same-sex ‘marriage,’” Lawlor said.
Now that same-sex “marriage” has been declared constitutional by the state’s highest court, Lawlor called the 1991 statute being repealed by Section 17 “archaic.”
Asked if there was room for compromise on the measure, Lawlor replied, “Every bill is negotiable.”
But Wolfgang said, “Allowing Section 17 as it now reads to pass into law could be interpreted by the courts to mean the state does require schools to promote and teach homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.”
Noticeably missing is any language to strengthen religious liberty and right-of-conscience protections. The new bill exempts clergy from having to perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. But justices of the peace must perform same-sex “weddings.”
“Given the radical nature of this same-sex ‘marriage’ bill,” Wolfgang said, “further attacks on liberty and conscience are likely.”
Rowe said the bill will come before the committee “sometime in March.”
If the committee decides to raise the bill — and Rowe thinks “the votes are there to get it through in essentially the form that it’s in now” — public hearings will then be scheduled.
Deacon Reynolds of the Connecticut Catholic Conference noted that the two chairmen of the Judiciary Committee are homosexuals. “So they’re very favorable toward the court’s ruling and very favorable toward this legislation,” he said.
Wolfgang believed the public will be given short notice of the hearings — and very little time to respond.
Parental Rights Threat?
Those concerned that the Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health decision and S.B. 899 will change what’s taught to Connecticut’s public school children are not overreacting — and are right to be worried, said Vince McCarthy, senior counsel with the D.C.-based American Center for Law and Justice.
“Materials now being distributed by Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) would force children in schools to learn that people who believe heterosexual conduct is morally superior to homosexual conduct suffer from a form of mental illness called ‘heterosexism,’” McCarthy said. “I have 50 pages of materials right here in front of me which teach that the religion kids have always learned growing up if they were Christian is all wrong, that Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t exactly happen the way the Bible says it did.”
Some of these materials — which McCarthy said “clearly teach religion” (because they argue over the interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah) and, therefore, appear to violate the establishment clause — have come into Connecticut through the Massachusetts Department of Education.
Despite state laws to the contrary, Massachusetts courts have held that parents can no longer opt their children out of “diversity” education. Gone is old-fashioned sex education, which once drew intense parental fire. Now health classes, under the guise of “safety education,” teach children how to make various sexual perversions “safe.”
“In Massachusetts, it’s basically ‘game over’ for parents’ rights,” said Lisa Barstow, media spokeswoman for the Woburn-based Massachusetts Family Institute.
Boston mother and teacher Megan Reilly, a Catholic, chose not to teach in Massachusetts public schools because “I wanted to be able to mention God without a lawsuit threatened against me.”
Sadly, with families struggling to keep afloat in these tough economic times, Barstow observed, many parents are too distracted to think about parental rights in schools.
“We have to be vigilant against this stuff,” Reilly said. “Our rights as parents are being taken away in Massachusetts, and that’s exactly what will happen in Connecticut — if people don’t stay on guard.”
In his 1981 apostolic exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II said, “Families should grow in awareness of being ‘protagonists’ of what is known as ‘family politics’ and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise, families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”
Sue Ellin Browder is
based in Willits, California.