A reader writes:
I teach at a large university in a conservative part of the country, and I think a large part of this fear of children learning that - gasp - people can be attracted to the same sex, has to do with the religious right's emphasis on marriage as a primarily sexual institution. They would not agree with that, of course, but look at how they teach sexuality education to their children: "Abstinence til marriage. Nothing else need be said." (Thus sending the message that sex and marriage are yoked at the hip.
The conservative youth group "Young Life" is very active where we live (high schools and college), and I cannot tell you how many young people (18-21) I know who have gotten married because they simply cannot hold out sexually any longer. They get married in order to have sex. They don't get married because they love the person; they may be deeply in love, but that's not why they're getting married at that particular time -- they're getting married before they finish college, before they have decent-paying jobs, before they have health insurance, because they are afraid they won't be able to control their sexual urges any longer.
Sex is intrinsically linked to marriage. Sex=marriage=sex.
I also have known quite a number of people in their late 20s and early 30s (students) who are now divorced (or unhappily married), who tell me that that is exactly why they got married 10 or whatever years ago -- and they are now stuck with two or three kids, trapped in a marriage they recognize was entered based on an immature idea of what "love" is and pressure from their families and conservative churches to, no matter what, NOT have sex before marriage.
This is not to say that many of those young couples can't make their marriages work, but to point out that the pressure -- and the conflation of sex with marriage -- is intense.
It is no wonder, then, that for a religious conservative, the thought of their first-grader coming home asking questions about their female teacher's wife, or reading about Heather and her Two Mommies, scares the bejesus out of them. Marriage is all about sex, and sex is already an extremely scary topic (see again their resistance to any kind of true sex education), and Good God ...! It's downright terrifying for them.
I'd never really thought of it that way - and it's very helpful. Of course, to my mind, marriage is not really about sex, although it certainly includes that. For me, the core virtue of marriage is friendship.