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Gay marriage critic's e-mail fails the test

BILL NEMITZ - September 11, 2009

In his other life, as director of public affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Marc Mutty has spent years navigating the complex legislative currents that run through the State House. It's the kind of job that requires a keen understanding of what a given law says – and what it doesn't.

But these days, Mutty is chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, the group that is working to repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law. And if his latest fundraising pitch is any indication, Mutty's new gig has a lot more to do with fear than facts.

The mass e-mail went out late last week under the heading "Should children be indoctrinated in Maine schools?"

Signed by Mutty, it's a not-so-pleasant peek at what we can expect between now and the Nov. 3 statewide vote on same-sex marriage.

The appeal starts with a "pop quiz" to commemorate the start of the school year:

Which of the following does not belong in the same group as the others: A) History B) Mathematics C) English D) (in bold-face type) Homosexual Marriage.

The letter then congratulates those who chose "D," noting, "Maine's public schools should focus on reading and writing, not mandatory gay sex education."

You read that correctly. According to the leader of Stand for Maine Marriage, a man who undoubtedly knows better, the law passed by the Legislature in May makes "gay sex education" mandatory in classrooms statewide.

In case you didn't get it the first time, Mutty goes on to warn, again in bold-face, that "if marriage is redefined to be genderless, then same-sex marriage must be taught as being the same as traditional marriage."

And finally, the money pitch: "We need your immediate contribution of $100, $50 or even $25 to keep homosexual education out of Maine's classrooms."

All of which raises an intriguing question: Who really wrote this – and what have they done with the old Marc Mutty? Mutty was out sick Thursday and thus unavailable to explain what's causing him to see things in Maine's same-sex marriage law that, from any reality-based angle, simply aren't there.

But the Rev. Bob Emrich of the Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth, a member of Stand for Marriage Maine's executive committee, said the group stands by Mutty's claim that the same-sex marriage statute will require "explicit homosexual instruction in the classroom."

One problem. Emrich and Mutty are wrong. Nowhere in the law do the words "school" or "classroom" even appear.

And if you're looking for phrases like "explicit homosexual instruction" hidden in some obscure statutory subsection, trust me – it's not there. Not even in code.

So, Pastor Bob, what gives?

"I would think it would come under the comprehensive family life curriculum that the state of Maine mandates," Emrich said, noting that when teachers instruct students about "marriage" under "the curriculum," they would have no choice but to include same-sex marriage in their lesson plans.

"It's really pretty obvious," Emrich said.

Uh-huh. Except it isn't.

For starters, Maine doesn't "mandate" a "comprehensive family life curriculum" for its schools.

Rather, Maine Revised Statutes Title 22 requires the commissioner of education to work with local family planning programs to develop "comprehensive family life education services" that any school district can choose (or choose not) to incorporate into its curriculum.

The statute also says that if any family-life education takes place in a school, "a parent may choose to not have (his or her) child participate" in the program.

As for "marriage" – heterosexual or homosexual – the word never appears in the statute. Not once.

Ditto for Maine's Learning Results, the broad standards upon which school districts build their curricula.

The closest they come to anything involving "family life," according to Department of Education Communications Director David Connerty-Marin, are the standards for "Health Education and Physical Education" and "Career Education."

And what do those say about marriage?

"Nothing," Connerty-Marin replied.

The simple truth is that school curriculum decisions in Maine are made not by the state, but by local school boards. And those school boards, being elected and all, answer directly to parents.

Here in Portland, Superintendent Jim Morse said Thursday, the sex-education program for ninth-graders already touches briefly on issues surrounding homosexuality. (Morse also noted that parents can pull their children out of that discussion – or the whole sex-ed program, for that matter – if they feel it's not appropriate for their children.)

As for any "explicit" instruction on homosexuality, Morse said it simply doesn't exist – nor will it if the same-sex marriage law is upheld.

"There is no explicit discussion," Morse said.

Which brings us back to the truth – or disturbing lack thereof – in Mutty's misguided fundraising appeal.

In a statement issued via e-mail Thursday, Jesse Connolly, campaign manager of No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, predicted that Maine voters will "see through these cynical campaign tactics" by Mutty & Co. as the debate heats up in the coming weeks.

"This is an attempt to divert attention and raise unfounded issues," said Connolly. "Question 1 has nothing to do with schools and no one is voting on curriculum in November."

Connolly is right – and anyone who's taken the time to carefully read Maine's same-sex marriage law knows it.

Including, of all people, Marc Mutty.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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