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US Supreme Court refuses Lexington case

Parents challenge gay-related books

By Lisa Keen
Globe Correspondent / October 9, 2008
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The US Supreme Court refused this week to hear the appeal of two Lexington couples who said the inclusion of gayrelated books on a public school's reading list violated their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

Parker v. Hurley was one of nearly 2,000 cases whose petitions for review the high court rejected on Monday, the first day of the 2008-09 session.

In that case, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had rejected the parents' argument that the Lexington public school district should have given them prior notice that it was going to include books that include gay families on their student reading lists.

The parents - David and Tonia Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin - said they believe their constitutional rights to free exercise of religion, as well as parental and privacy rights, require they be given a chance to exempt their children from receiving the bag of books or hearing the books read aloud in class. The books are not required reading.

David Parker was arrested for trespassing at Estabrook Elementary School in April 2005, when he refused to leave the building until school officials promised to give him prior notification of their use of books that include homosexual characters.

Rachel Cortez, president of the school's parent-teacher association, said at the time that parents are given a chance to examine the books during a back-to-school night event early in the school year.

In January, the court ruled that the inclusion of books that included gay people or relationships did not violate the parents' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and suggested the conflict was a political one that should be resolved through "normal political processes for change in the town and state."

Jeffrey Denner, an attorney for the couples, said that they still have options available to them to pursue their challenge in the state court but that no decision has been made on that.

Tonia Parker said yesterday that the family has begun home schooling their children.

David Parker said he believes they were "forced" to take their children out of school after Lexington adopted a new diversity curriculum.

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