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Lexington MA Throws Fit for a Gay "King"

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Sunday Apr 23, 2006
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A grouchy queen tells her lazy prince-son that it’s time he thought about marriage. "Very well, Mother," he replies, "I must say, though, I’ve never cared much for princesses."

It leads to a fictional royal gay marriage in the fanciful children’s book King & King, written and authored by Dutch collaborators Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, and the source of a bitter battle in Lexington Massachusetts - where on March 24th at Estabrook Elementary School, Heather Kramer cracked open the colorful book and read it to her second grade class.

One of the boys in the class returned home, and in conversation with his mother, told her about it.

"We are outraged," said the mother, Robin Wirthlin, to the local Article 8 Alliance, a resistance group that now urges other parents to help ban the book in classrooms. "This is a highly charged social issue. Why are they introducing it in the second grade? And we cannot present our family’s point of view to our children if they don’t tell us what they’re saying to them."

The reading was part of a "wedding" theme for the day - and because gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Kramer felt it was appropriate to read the story despite not being part of the established curriculum.

The school’s superintendent, during a confrontation with the Wirthlins, supported the decision.

"We couldn’t run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed," Superintendent Paul Ash said to the Boston Globe.
"Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal."

"Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal."

The Wirthins have a different view.

"They’re trying to indoctrinate our children," Robin Wirthlin fired back.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, a political action group behind the proposed Massachusetts Protection of Marriage Amendment, has now joined the fray. Its president, Kris Mineau, told the Baptist Press that the group has "always maintained that the very first level of impact [from the legalization of gay marriage] would be in the public school system, where children would be taught morals that are counter to the morals that parents want them to be taught. Taxpayer money should never be used to put children at odds with their parents."

Another conservative organization, the Parents Right Coalition, is currently working on a bill that would permit parents to "opt out" their children when classrooms have discussions that involve homosexuality.

To Kramer and Ash, however, their school is merely presenting "all points of view" as part of the educational process. Ash has noted that since sexual orientation does not qualify as a "human sexual issue" in the Massachusetts parental notification law (M.G.L. Ch. 73 Sec. 32a), the school is not required to provide parents advanced notice that the topic will be discussed.

Tricycle Press says it’s proud to be the publisher of King & King. "It features an unconditional love that ignores conventional boundaries," said Laura Mancuso, the company’s marketing manager, in an e-mail statement. "There are many kinds of families in this country, and the children in these families and their friends deserve to see their situations in a positive light."

To the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the heated topic can be reduced to clear protection of First Amendment rights.

"Americans are deeply divided over homosexuality in our society," said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, which produces guidelines for schools and teachers on the subject. "But if school officials and community members use the ground rules of the First Amendment, they can reach agreement on how public schools can guard the rights of all students in a safe learning environment."

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his husband and daughter in Dedham MA.

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