Monday, February 04, 2008

Why the David Parkers of the world must continue to lose

First of all, a BIG acknowledgement to my online buddy, Pam Spaulding for her inclusion in the National Black Justice Coalition's LGBT Black History Profiles.

A very deserving honor indeed.

This weekend, a federal appeals court ruled against parent David Parker in his crusade against his son's elementary school.

First, a recap via Box Turtle Bulletin:

In January 2005, Jacob Parker brought home a diversity book bag from his kindergarten. Included in the bag was books about other cultures and traditions, food recipes, and a book called Who’s in a Family. The illustrations included various family constructions: single parents, mom-dad-kids, grandparents, mixed-race families, and same-sex parents.

David Parker, his father, decided that young Jacob was entitled to ignorance of the existence of same-sex headed families. He set out to change school policy so that his child not be exposed to that fact. He extended his demands to include any discussion of same-sex parenting, regardless of the context or setting - including any conversations of children of gay or lesbian parents.

Because the school district has a large number of same-sex families, many with children attending the school, the administration deemed Parker’s request to be nearly impossible.

This resulted in a string of emails and eventually Parker showed up in the administrative offices and refused to leave until his demands were met. At the end of the day, police were called and, when Parker refused the police requests to leave, he was arrested for trespassing.

Dr. Paul Ash, superintendent of Lexington Public Schools, said the school tried to be accommodating.

“The school department said, ‘Look, we’ll work with you, but we cannot assure you what a child is going to say and that we can immediately stop a discussion that you find objectionable,’” said Ash. “One of the central units in kindergarten is the discussion of families and we show families of all different types.” Ash says the discussions “ended up in an irreconcilable difference.”

In June 2006, the Parkers sued the school in federal court for civil right violations.

They were joined by the Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, parents of a second grader in the same district. On a day in which the school discussed marriage, a teacher read King and King, a book in which a prince doesn’t fall for a princess but for another prince instead. Although marriage laws in Massachusetts include same-sex couples, the Wirthlins believe that such marriages should be excluded from discussion about marriages in the classroom.

A few days after filing their suit, David Parker’s credibility came under question. He spread a story that his child, Jacob, was beaten by students for David Parker’s anti-gay stance and suggested that school teachers or the administration were behind the beating.

After much press in the anti-gay conservative Christian media, the facts were released. It turned out to be nothing greater than a schoolyard scuffle over who sat next to whom in the cafeteria.

In February 2007, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed the lawsuit.

In his 38-page decision, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of US District Court said that under the US Constitution, public schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.”

“Diversity is a hallmark of our nation,” he said.

The Parkers and Wirthlins appealed the decision. Yesterday the three judge appeals panel unanimously upheld Judge Wolf’s decision.

The Parker case was one of serious interest to me. It took place when I was writing Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters. In fact, I included the case as an example of how the anti-gay industry distorts current events to fit their agenda.

But something else needs to be said about it. I think that Parker's lawsuit was yet another way that the anti-gay industry will not acknowledge the presence of lgbt families.

Parker was told that children living in same-sex led households attended the same school as his son, but he would not acknowledge this. Nor did Peter LaBarbera, the Traditional Values Coalition, Mass Resistance, or any other group supporting Parker.

Being honest about the situation, their omissions of these families was intentional. Acknowledging the fact the lgbts are raising families would interfere with the anti-gay industry image of lgbts being hedonistic outsiders with no care of family obligations or responsibility.

But the fact of the matter is that there are same-sex led families throughout the United States, these families are raising children rather well, and these families should have the same type of acknowledgement as opposite sex families.

More importantly, we don't need to creating caste systems regarding families. Parker's right as a parent does not supersede the right of a child to not have his family given some sort of Scarlet Letter.

A child shouldn't have to wonder why a teacher is stopping class and taking some classmates out of the room just because he wants to talk about his two mothers or she wants to talk about her two daddies.

Schools should never be in the business of placing mental asteriks on families that tell children, "your family is a good one but since it doesn't fit the definition of a normal family, it will always be second best."

For the sake of all children and all families, the David Parkers, the Peter LaBarberas, and the James Dobsons must lose when they try to impose their defintion of family on us all.