New group of teachers calls for No in marriage referendum

Organisation claims educators would be obliged to teach new model of matrimony

Teachers will be obliged to teach a new model of marriage to children if the same-sex marriage referendum is passed, according to a new group of teachers calling for a No vote.

Speaking at the gates of Leinster House, the spokesman for the group, primary teacher Kevin Leavy, said the proposed Constitutional change had serious consequences that had not been properly debated.

“The reality is that if this referendum passes, gender-neutral ‘marriage’ would be elevated to a new status in the Constitution, and employees of the State would be obliged to protect that new model of marriage,” Mr Leavy said.

He said there was now a fear that a teacher who gives preferential treatment to a view of marriage as between a man and a woman would be seen to be discriminating.

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Mr Leavy said the proposal will change the way sex education classes in schools would be taught.

He said that teachers who do not believe that same-sex marriage is the same as marriage between a man and a woman could be accused of being homophobic and in breach of the Teaching Council code of conduct.

"We already have material being sent into primary schools with the approval of the INTO called 'Different Families, Same Love'.

“Among other things, this advises teachers on how to teach children in junior infants about transsexuality and the different varieties of adult sexual desire, before they even know the basic facts of life.

“If the referendum passes, it will become more and more difficult for teachers to refuse to teach material they believe is entirely age inappropriate.”

School ethos

Mr Leavy said that, as educators, they fully supported action against bullying and believed in teaching tolerance and respect for all people, but that they believed this must be done in a manner that was fully in harmony with personal conscience, school ethos and parents’ values.

“If the referendum is passed, far-reaching changes involved in the redefinition of marriage will create challenges for educators which, in some cases, could lead to a loss of livelihood because of disciplinary action.

“It is highly unlikely that school ethos will provide sufficient protection, especially for teachers paid from the public purse.”

Mr Leavy said it was wholly unacceptable for the Government to accuse people of scaremongering for raising these concerns, particularly as the Government had repeatedly refused to address any of these issues.

“In fact, they have refused to consider including a conscience clause. The impact on the education system in other countries after the introduction of same-sex marriage points to what would happen here.

“Teachers, and indeed parents, have not been informed or consulted about these consequences. Accordingly, we urge parents and teachers to vote No,” Mr Leavy said.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times