I've saved the worst for last.
In the run-up to the election I've been breaking down the desperate lies pushed by anti-gay campaigns this season (see Lies #1, #2, and #3). Now that we're in the final week before votes are tallied, it's predictable that the opposition would unleash the most sickening and cynical of all the lies in the playbook: tell voters their kids are in danger.
In a set of copy-and-paste ads in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, a pair of anti-gay activists from Massachusetts warn voters, "If gay marriage happens here, schools could teach that boys can marry boys." They go on to assert that in their state, "courts ruled parents had no right to take their children out of class or to even be informed when this instruction was going to take place."
What the ads don't tell you is that the incident the narrators refer to happened in 2005. That's right -- the story featured in these ads is seven years-old. And it's been thoroughly debunked by every independent fact-checking news organization that's looked into it. Politifact ruled it false. Minnesota Public Radio called it misleading. And the Minneapolis CBS affiliate called it false and misleading.
Here's what really happened, according to the U.S. District Court of Appeals' ruling in the case: "In January 2005, when Jacob Parker was in kindergarten, he brought home a 'Diversity Book Bag.' This included a picture book, Who's in a Family?, which depicted different families, including single-parent families, an extended family, interracial families, animal families, a family without children, and -- to the concern of the Parkers -- a family with two dads and a family with two moms. The book concludes by answering the question, 'Who's in a family?': 'The people who love you the most!' The book says nothing about marriage."
That's worth repeating. The book the Parkers objected to said nothing about marriage.
In the current crop of ads, the Parkers also claim: "When Massachusetts redefined marriage, schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended." But state educational policy on families was established five years earlier, long before marriage was legalized for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. As for parents being notified and opting out, that too was long-established in state law.
The ad omits some other big pieces of reality. It doesn't tell viewers that David Parker subsequently staged a protest at the school district office, refusing to leave unless he was arrested and summoning supporters with cameras to film the event. The Parkers and another couple (described by the Court of Appeals as "parents, whose religious beliefs are offended by gay marriage and homosexuality") filed suit against the district. The District Court and the Appeals Court found their complaint groundless, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear it.
It's not just the courts and fact-checking news organizations that attest to the bogus nature of the Parkers' story. Caught on camera, the chair of the Maine anti-gay campaign in 2009 (which utilized this same strategy) admitted: "We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous... You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!' ... Well, that's not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn't... Let's look back at our ads and see what we say... I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it's like 'Geez!'"
Clearly, facts don't matter to our opponents. Anti-marriage campaigns in four states are still trotting this tired old story out in hopes of distracting the public and scaring people into voting against their gay neighbors.
Fortunately, it's not just facts that we have on our side. We have values -- family values, American values, the values that support the freedom to marry.
The freedom to marry campaigns in these four states are reminding voters of a fact that the Parkers and the so-called National Organization for Marriage want them to forget: children learn their values at home, from their parents. For many parents, the most important value is the Golden Rule. By standing up for these values -- and rejecting the discredited pack of lies these ads are peddling -- voters can teach their children a valuable lesson this Election Day. As expressed by John and Elizabeth from Edina, Minnesota, that lesson is "not judging others, and treating people as we'd like to be treated."
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