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Education Reporter

NEA Approves Plan to Advocate for Same-Sex Marriage
This year's National Education Assocation annual convention, called Representative Assembly, approved an "action plan" for the teachers union's advocacy of same-sex marriage. Adopted in San Diego, California, this action plan indicates that NEA and its state affiliates will aggressively campaign for state-by-state and federal legislation to the end that homosexual couples will receive the same recognition, tax status, adoption opportunities, and other benefits that married, heterosexual couples receive.

NEA's Legislative Program and several of its resolutions already indicated that the union fully approved of same-sex marriage. In its resolution B-14, for example, NEA asserts:

"The Association also believes that these factors [race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, disability, ethnicity, immigration status, occupation, and religion] should not affect the legal rights and obligations of the partners in a legally recognized domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage in regard to matters involving the other partner, such as medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration."

NEA added the above statement to its "Resolution on Racism, Sexism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identification Discrimination" in 2006. The union's resolutions, which delegates tinker with and reapprove each year at the Representative Assembly, make dozens of other references to sexual orientation and homophobia.

According to the new action plan, NEA will now work to "repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples." Commentators observed that this most likely refers to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, which allows states to refuse to recognize homosexual marriages performed in other states. Jeralee Smith, cofounder of NEA's Conservative Educators Caucus, confirmed that the Representative Assembly's discussion of the action plan does indicate that the union planned to target DOMA.

In 2006, when NEA approved the resolution favoring same-sex marriage, reportedly very little discussion was allowed. This year, the assembly voted to end debate on the new action plan while there were still 20 or 30 people lined up to speak on each side of the issue. About five speakers on each side were allowed to contribute. "As soon as [a conservative delegate] mentioned the words 'marriage should be between a man and a woman,' she got booed," reported Jeralee Smith. "The chair stopped the booing and reminded everybody that in a democracy everyone gets to have their say."

Another speaker who opposed the action plan noted first that he was politically liberal and supported "gay rights." He opposed NEA's plans for further advocacy of same-sex marriage, however, because the union was losing members over its involvement in this contentious political issue. When the plan went to a voice vote, about 60% of delegates voted for it and 40% were opposed.

NEA doesn't care what states call the relationship it is trying to enshrine into law, as the teachers union implies in Resolution B-14 and makes explicit in the new action plan. "NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized 'equal treatment' relationship," states the plan. The union obviously believes that whether states call this relationship a "civil union," a "domestic partnership," or a "marriage," the effect will be the same.

The fifth point of the plan declares that "NEA supports the right of religious institutions to refuse to perform or recognize same-sex marriages." A representative from the Gay and Lesbian Caucus spoke against this provision during the debate on the plan, but according to Jeralee Smith, "the Representative Assembly very definitely refused" to omit this caveat. Even if pastors are not forced to actually marry homosexual partners, laws such as those NEA favors could severely limit churches' ability to engage in the public sphere. Adoption, an area in which religious agencies are currently deeply involved, poses the most obvious and glaring problem. Consider the United Kingdom, which in 2004 created same-sex civil partnerships with benefits identical to those of married couples. As of this year, British law also required all adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples. Half of the United Kingdom's Catholic adoption agencies decided to comply with the law; the fate of the other half, which refuse to comply, is still uncertain.

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