Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has now passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords and is expected to receive Royal Assent shortly. One of the main opponents of the legislation spoke last week about his fears for school teachers if the equal marriage legislation is passed.

Lord Dear: I ask Members of your Lordships’ House to put themselves into the position where a classroom of 13 year-olds are being taught about same-sex marriage and ask whether the line can be drawn between endorsement on the one hand and a pure explanation on the other. It is easy to imagine that class of 13 year-olds pressing their teacher to give his or her personal opinion.

That is particularly the case when the issue of same-sex marriage arises in contexts which are outside sex education. For example, should a primary school teacher with a conscientious objection to same-sex marriage be expected a read a book such as King and King, which is well known and endorsed and published by Stonewall, about two princes who get married? The teacher could well consider such a book to be an endorsement of same-sex marriage. She should have the freedom to decline to read the book without suffering detriment, a freedom that has already been denied to one such teacher who stopped reading a book about two male penguins raising a chick because she felt it conflicted with her beliefs. She was subsequently restricted from having her own class.

If teachers are worried about two male penguins raising a chick, I wonder how they'll react when asked to teach Shakespeare plays with all those stories of betrayal, conspiracy and murder. Thankfully, though, all the ridiculous amendments failed, so teachers and other public employees will be expected to do their job properly.

Yesterday Lord Dear graciously conceded that the majority of the population support the same-sex marriage legislation, and hoped that it will prove to be a success.

A conference in Westminster today is looking at how children's books can help challenge homophobic bullying and encourage inclusivity. The topic of more inclusive TV was discussed at this year's Children's Media Conference.

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