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Prop. 8 TV ad raises questions

SACRAMENTO -- If same-sex marriage remains legal, will it be taught in schools?

The question is raised in a new television ad by backers of Proposition 8, the Nov. 4 ballot initiative that would ban same sex-marriage in California. Opponents are running a counter-ad accusing the yes campaign of "scare tactics."

Here is a closer look at the Yes-on-8 ad and how it compares with the facts:

The ad begins with a conversation between a mother and her second-grade daughter.

Girl: "Mom, guess what we learned in school today?"

Mom: "What, sweetie?"

Girl: "I learned about a prince who married another prince. And I can marry a princess."

Later, a professor says, "When Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, schools began teaching second-graders that boys can marry boys. The courts ruled parents had no right to object."

Voice-Over: "Under California law, public schools instruct kids about marriage. Teaching children about gay marriage will happen here unless we pass Proposition 8."

The ad is somewhat misleading because California law does not require schools to teach about marriage -- gay or straight. Such decisions are left up to local school boards.

The ad references a 2006 case in Massachusetts in which a teacher read the book "King and King" to her second-grade class. The picture book tells the story of a prince who falls in love with another prince.

Some parents asked to get advance notice of such instruction. The principal said the school had no such obligation and federal courts ruled in favor of the school.

California's Prop. 8 does not reference gay marriage instruction. The measure would redefine marriage as between a man and woman, overturning the May state Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage.

Schools are not required to teach comprehensive sex education. If they do, they must "teach respect for marriage and committed relationships." The law also states instruction and materials may not "reflect or promote bias against any person" on the basis of several categories, including sexual orientation.

Yes-on-8 supporters take this to mean that schools would be violating the law if they fail to equally describe same-sex and opposite sex marriage.

However, state education officials say marriage curriculum is left up to locally elected school boards.

At Fresno Unified School District, instructors begin teaching sex education in sixth grade but there is no discussion of gay marriage. If questions arise on the topic, teachers tell students to talk to family members, district officials said. Clovis Unified teachers also do not discuss gay marriage, officials said.

Visalia Unified's curriculum includes instruction about sexually transmitted diseases, but does not include comprehensive sex education or discussion of marriage.

Also, parents in California have the right to review curriculum and remove their children from health classes if the instruction "conflicts with" their "religious training and beliefs."