Making Life More Fair: Talking With Children About Same-Sex Marriage

Teacher Mary Cowhey is one of my favorite education authors. I'm in love with her book, Black Ants and Buddhists, and I recently came across a terrific essay, called "Heather's Moms Got Married," that she wrote back in 2005. In light of the "Don't Say Gay" bill currently making its way through the Tennessee legislature, I think it is an important piece for us to contemplate. (For those who don't know, the bill would prohibit "the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.")

Here are a couple excerpts from Cowhey's essay:

(Cowhey's second grade students had been discussing Brown vs. Board of Education.)
Angela, an African-American girl, had quietly been following the discussion and finally raised her hand. "Because of that [the Brown decision], things are more fair, like I can go to this school and have all different friends. Still, not everything is fair, and that makes me sad."

Sadie asked Angela what still wasn't fair. "Well, your parents could get married, because you have a mom and a dad, but I have two moms and they can't get married. That's not fair."
Sadie considered this for an instant before asking, "Who made that stupid rule?"

With the honesty and incisive thinking I cherish in second graders, Angela and Sadie had cut to the chase. When it comes to discussing gay marriage in second grade, these are the questions that matter most: Is it fair to exclude some families from the right to marry? Who made that rule (and how is it changing)?

...I wish many Americans would approach the issue of same-sex marriage with the same openness as my second graders....The refusal to extend equal rights to families with gay and lesbian parents hurts children like my students, giving them the message their families are not equal, are somehow inferior. And, as my second graders will tell you: That's not fair.
Read the complete essay.

We adults say that we want what's best for our children, and that our actions are for their own good. But it is important for us to differentiate what is truly good for our children, and what is merely most comfortable for us.

~ Marsha

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