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January 20, 2012 permalink

A school newspaper in Wisconsin printed two editorials on the subject of same-sex adoption, one in favor by Maddie Marquardt, one against by Brandon Wagner. The pro article pointed out the need of children for adoptive parents of any kind, and said research shows gay parents produce well-adjusted children. The anti article cited scripture and quoted other authority that children raised by same-sex couples suffered from elevated problems. The outcome? School superintendent Todd Carlson apologized for the anti-same-sex editorial and said "appropriate steps are being taken" to remedy the situation, without giving details. There was no apology for supporting the removal of children from natural parents to supply the needs of same-sex couples.

A press report is enclosed, here are the editorials (pdf).



Gay debate hits home in Shawano

Same-sex parents outraged by column in school paper

Nick Uttecht, Riley Uttecht Michael McNelly and Alexis Christopherson
Nick Uttecht hugs his son Riley, 10, as his partner, Michael McNelly, talks with his daughter, Alexis Christopherson, 6, on Thursday in their Shawano home. The Shawano High School newspaper recently ran a column in which a student used bibli cal references to bash gays and call them unfit parents.
Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

By the Numbers

Roughly half of same-sex households have children, according to the 2010 U.S. Census:
Brown County:
Male householder with male partner: 242
With children younger than 18 years old: 83
Female householder with female partner: 308
With children younger than 18 years old: 182
Total households: 98,383
Shawano County:
Male householder with male partner: 34
With children younger than 18 years old: 17
Female householder with female partner: 48
With children younger than 18 years old: 21
Total households: 17,019

Gay-straight event

The Adult Gay-Straight Alliance of Green Bay will host an event this month designed to foster understanding and acceptance of people with different sexual orientations.
The event, which will include refreshments, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Harmony Café, 1660 W. Mason St., Green Bay.
It will include the showing of a video called "Lead with Love," which tells of parents learning to accept their gay children.
A panel discussion will follow.
— Press-Gazette

SHAWANO — A gay couple with school-age children is outraged over a Shawano High School newspaper column that cites Bible passages and calls homosexuality a sin punishable by death.

The column ran on the editorial page of Shawano High School's Hawks Post recently as part of an opinion package about gay families who adopt children. The other side said sexual orientation does not determine a person's ability to raise kids.

"This is why kids commit suicide," said Nick Uttecht, who is raising four children with his partner, Michael McNelly.

Uttecht told school district officials he thinks the piece opposing gays as parents is hateful and should not have run. He worries the strong language will hurt his children and could lead students to bully gay classmates.

School officials apologized and said they will review the process for editing and producing the paper.

"Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District," district Superintendent Todd Carlson said in a written statement.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, out of 17,019 households in Shawano County, 82 were same-sex households, and nearly half reported children in the home. In Wisconsin, 13,630 out of 2.28 million households in 2010 were same-sex, and 5,978 of those households had children.

A step back?

The student newspaper column against same-sex couples says: "If one is a practicing Christian, Jesus states in the Bible that homosexuality is (a) detestable act and sin which makes adopting wrong for homosexuals because you would be raising the child in a sin-filled environment.

"A child adopted into homosexuality will get confused because everyone else will have two different-gendered parents that can give them the correct amount of motherly nurturing and fatherly structure. In a Christian society, allowing homosexual couples to adopt is an abomination."

Uttecht said his 13-year-old son, Tanner, who is in eighth grade, saw the article and asked about it.

"When I saw this I was in shock," said Uttecht, who is raising four children, three who are his biological kids and the biological daughter of his partner. Three are in the Shawano school system; the youngest is 4.

"I talked to the school superintendent; he said he was shocked," Uttecht said

Carlson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette "appropriate steps are being taken" to remedy the situation, but did not provide details.

He sent the following written statement:

"The Shawano School District would like to apologize for a recent article printed in the Hawks Post newspaper. Proper judgment that reflects school district policies needs to be exercised with articles printed in our school newspaper. Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District. We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future."

Uttecht said he's worried about the lasting impact of the column.

"I'm worried about how this is going to affect my kids," said Uttecht, who also is an elected member of the Menominee Indian Head Start Policy Council. "And I'm worried how gay students in school will be treated. It took me a long time to come out, and I think this just really sets things back by being so closed-minded. This sets things back 20 or 30 years.

"I know there are at least three openly gay families in the district, there's probably more. What effect is this going to have on my kids? And how are other people going to react?"

Free speech

David Hudson, an expert for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group First Amendment Center, said the column may be distasteful to some, but student journalists were practicing their constitutional right to free speech.

"Bullying is a serious concern, and I don't take it lightly. But I hope it doesn't lead to squashing different viewpoints. I do think (gay adoption) is an issue people are deeply divided about. Hopefully student journalists don't have to fear they'll be squashed if they take a controversial view."

Editors and advisers have the job of toning down language if it is too sensational, Hudson said.

"Freedom of speech includes speech about religious viewpoints," Hudson said. "If you took that away, it could be seen as discrimination. Someone could have an atheist opinion, and that's OK, too.

"Any controversial issue is a lightning rod for censorship."

Although students have the right to voice their opinion, it doesn't mean they should say it in a school paper, said Christine Smith, assistant professor of psychology, human development and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"High school students are at a time in their life when they are developing intellectually and socially," she said. "To see something like this debated in the paper could be devastating. How would you feel if someone said your family is abnormal, is not acceptable, that your parents never should have been allowed to have you, that they're not suitable to raise you?

"Of course, it's got to be harmful. Kids this age are so worried about discovering who they are and what they are. To have them told their family is immoral and not suitable has to be devastating. To be told by your peers, people you see in the hallways, these people who clearly have passed judgment."

She hopes something good comes from Shawano's situation.

"Sometimes it can be motivational. People can see there is a need for action and it sparks them to do something."

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette