February 17, 2012 4:55 pm ET - by Carlos Maza
Now that Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed her state’s marriage equality bill into law, anti-gay groups like the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are scrambling to collect enough signatures to put the issue of same-sex marriage to a public vote before the laws goes into effect in June. If they succeed in launching a referendum, they’ll have an opportunity to flood Washington voters’ mailboxes, phone lines, and airwaves with anti-equality talking points.
On Tuesday, NOM’s regional director Christopher Plante went on KUOW’s The Conversation radio show to describe what NOM’s misinformation campaign might look like, already touting the “gay indoctrination” myth:
ROSS REYNOLDS (host): In California and Maine, a couple states you worked in, one of the common messages was that to pass these measures – was that the teachers were going to be teaching students about same-sex relationships in school.
REYNOLDS: Do you expect that we’ll be hearing similar ads here in Washington State?
PLANTE: I would expect that we would. The cause, or – I shouldn’t say the cause – the consequences of redefining marriage, particularly for our children, not just this generation but the generations to come, is something that Washington voters need to truly understand. We saw it in Massachusetts as soon same-sex marriage was legalized there. Students as young as kindergarten were taking books home on same sex relationships. Second graders were required to read books such as the King and King, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that parents had no right to opt their children out of such things. That is a profound impact not only on the children, the education system, but on the rights of parents.
Plante is already quite familiar with the “gay indoctrination” talking point. Before he was NOM’s regional director, he was executive director of NOM’s Rhode Island chapter, where he made similar claims about the “consequences” of marriage equality.
Last February, PolitiFact Rhode Island took the time to fact check Plante’s horror story about gay curriculum in public schools. Unsurprisingly, it rated Plante’s claim “false”:
We chose to examine one of the claims: "Massachusetts’ public schools teach kids as young as kindergartners about gay marriage. Parents have no legal right to object!"
We contacted Christopher C. Plante, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of NOM, who told us that many schools in Massachusetts -- where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004 -- have books on the subject in their libraries.The "poster child," he said, is a picture book called "King & King," by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland.
Asked for examples of where the book is taught to kindergartners, Plante offered just one location, Lexington, Mass., where it became an issue in 2006.
Asked for any other examples of gay marriage being taught to kindergartners, Plante referred us to Kris Mineau, executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which describes itself as "dedicated to strengthening the family and affirming the Judeo-Christian values upon which it is based."
Mineau said he has been fighting same-sex marriage advocates for eight years and he is certain their message is being spread in schools throughout Massachusetts.
But he acknowledged he could not cite any examples other than Lexington. "I don’t have documentation of everything going on," Mineau said. "It’s very difficult to quantify."
Bottom line: The National Organization for Marriage mailing says that Massachusetts public schools teach kindergartners about gay marriage. The wording, including the present tense verb, gives the impression this is happening now, in many schools.
But the group’s only evidence is two incidents five years ago. It’s possible that somewhere, in one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, other kindergartners have been taught about same-sex marriage. But NOM couldn’t cite any other examples. We find its statement False. [emphasis added]
NOM has never been an organization that’s deterred by truth or reality. Even opponents of marriage equality have admitted that the gay curriculum talking point isn’t “completely accurate,” but NOM continues in peddle it in state after state, including in Maryland, New York, and New Hampshire.
It makes sense that NOM is unwilling to give up on its misleading talking point. A 2010 Third Way report found that fear mongering about “gay indoctrination” in schools is a sure fire way to push moderates away from supporting marriage equality, even if it becomes obvious that these fears are unfounded:
We think that the issue is actually broader than schools – it’s about kids more generally. When opponents run the school curriculum ads, we suspect that they are trying to evoke a more fundamental and broader concern about what marriage means for kids. They are trying to make people feel uncomfortable about the consequences for kids of allowing gay couples to marry and stoke fears that kids will not value marriage in the same way if gay and lesbian couples are allowed to participate in the tradition.
This means that responding directly to the schools argument isn’t necessarily enough. While it might deal with the literal concern raised by the ad, it does not address the underlying, deeper concern that people have about how their kids will be affected if society holds gay couples up as part of the ideal of marriage. [emphasis added]
NOM’s Plante – who’s no stranger to making false and inflammatory statements about same-sex marriage – knows that he has a lot of work to do if he wants to convince pro-equality Washington voters to change their minds about the “consequences” of allowing gays and lesbians to legally wed.
If scaring voters by ginning up fabricated horror stories is what it takes to influence the “will of the people,” so be it.
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