Washington United for Marriage: New “Schools” Ad by Opponents on R74 Is “Dead Wrong, Outdated” and Recycled from other Marriage States

In a memo sent statewide to media and other interested parties, Zach Silk, the campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the broad coalition working to defend the state’s marriage law, lambasted opponent’s latest TV ad as “outdated” and “dead wrong.”

The ad, entitled “Schools,” tells a seven-year-old story of David and Tonia Parker who sued the Lexington, MA, public schools for sending home in its “diversity book bag” a book called “Who’s in A Family” that shows pictures of families, including one of a lesbian couple and their children washing the family dog.

Tired of opponents’ unrelenting distortions and false claims from door hangers to online videos, to TV ads, Silk’s memo outlines, with citations, the multiple misrepresentations in an ad opponents are running nationally. The memo follows this release.

Finally, in the campaign’s ongoing effort to inform media and voters about the continual distortions that have marked R74 opponents’ public documents, advertising and comments, WUM released yet another marriagefactcheck.com on the “Schools” ad. See it here:  http://marriagefactcheck.com/?p=236


TO: Washington Media

FROM: Zach Silk, Campaign Manager for Washington United for Marriage

DT: Oct. 29, 2012

RE: PMW’s “Schools” Ad: Proven False Over and Over Again

A new ad launched today by Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW) entitled “Schools” tells a story that is not only outdated, it’s dead wrong. In fact, even the book shown in the ad, “King & King,” is not the book involved in David and Tonia Parker’s complaint.  The book in their son’s diversity book bag, which was at the center of their dispute with the Lexington, MA school system, was actually called “Who’s in A Family?

The case presented by the Parkers has been fact-checked and labeled “misleading” and “false” by respected media outlets [more here]. There are no new details in today’s ad to refute those determinations. In fact, it is telling that PMW does not have a more recent example than this fully discredited, seven-year-old claim – one that the United States Supreme Court refused to hear. Washingtonians deserve a more honest conversation about Referendum 74 and the freedom to marry.

Here are the facts about the Parkers’ claim that “When Massachusetts redefined marriage, schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended.”

In 2004, gay and lesbian couples were granted the freedom to marry in Massachusetts as a result of a state Supreme Court decision. This decision had no effect on educational standards or other instructions to schools.

State educational policy on families was established five years earlier, long before marriage was legalized for same-sex couples in the state. In 1999, Massachusetts developed a new Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework that read, “Students will gain knowledge about the significance of the family on individuals and society.”

State law already protects parental rights with regard to teaching values at home. In 1996, the Massachusetts legislature adopted a parental notification statute to be implemented by schools starting with the 1997-1998 school year. This law requires districts to provide parents with notice of and an opportunity to exempt their children from “curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues.”

In January of 2005, the Parker’s son was sent home from school with a “diversity book bag.” In that bag was a picture book called “Who’s in a family?” which depicted different kinds of families and stated, “Who’s in a family?” “The people who love you the most!”  The book says nothing about marriage.

The school district did not apply the parental notification and exemption statute in this situation, as the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote: “on the basis that the materials do not primarily involve human sexual education or human sexuality issues.” (pp 3-4)

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told Politifact that the state does not mandate a curriculum on same-sex marriage in kindergarten. A spokesman said,“Massachusetts does not require that students in any grade be taught about gay marriage.”  Politifact rated the story from the claims about this incident to be false. 

This ad is not new.  Not only was this the basis for a TV ad used in California to pass Proposition 8 in 2008, this exact same ad is on the air in three other states facing questions about same-sex marriage this November: Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland.

In Minnesota, CBS News Minnesota pointed out that the overall premise of the ad is false. In a fact check of this claim, CBS wrote: “There’s no evidence that Massachusetts ‘teaches’ gay marriage or that young children are being indoctrinated, as the Parkers alleged.  Massachusetts schools do have a diversity curriculum, called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework, that includes same-sex marriage; but it was developed before gay marriage was legal.”

This is not the first time the Parkers have appeared on camera here in Washington.  In a five-minute video produced by the DC-based Family Research Council and on PMW’s website for the last week, the Parkers told their story in a more elongated form.  You can see our MarriageFactCheck takedown of their story here.

Finally, the premise of the ad is entirely false: that, somehow, our marriage law and R74 has something to do with K-12 curriculum in Washington state.  The body of law that deals with curriculum is a completely separate body of law from either family law or marriage law.  Not only is there not a direct line, there isn’t even a dotted line.

WA media – and voters – should know that this is not only a recycled argument, it’s one that’s repeatedly been found to be false and misleading.  It’s designed for one purpose only – to scare and confuse voters and I urge you to do your own independent fact check.  I am sure you will find what every other reputable independent outlet has found – that the “Schools” ad raises hysteria that simply bears no relationship to the facts, and has absolutely nothing to do with Referendum 74 and our bipartisan marriage law.


Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework


“Diversity Book Bag”


U.S. Court of Appeals