Last year, Quinn Maloney-Tavares and Polly Hamilton, two sixth grade students at St. George Catholic School in Ottawa, were assigned a project where they had to talk about a social justice issue. Naturally, they decided to focus on gay rights:
“A lot of people, they don’t know they’re being rude, but they make being gay a bad thing,” said [Maloney-Tavares]… “They need to know that it’s not a bad thing.”
That’s a great point — and one well worth making at a Catholic school, since Catholic doctrine states that homosexuality is “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil” and therefore an “objective disorder.”
But the principal of the school, Ann Beauchamp, told the girls they needed to find a different topic:
… Beauchamp wouldn’t budge. “She felt very strongly about her decision,” [mother Ann] Maloney said.
The students’ projects go on display at a social justice fair in January, attended by students from Grades 4 to 6. Beauchamp didn’t feel gay rights “was a topic that was appropriate for that age group,” Maloney said.
Human rights isn’t appropriate for that age group?! It’s not like that argument is ever used in history class, where students are taught from an early age about violence and genocide and conquering. It’s not like they’re reading Green Eggs and Ham in their English classes.
If kids are old enough to learn about family structures, they’re old enough to learn that there’s nothing wrong with having two dads or two moms. And if they’re old enough to talk about respect, it shouldn’t be a problem to extend that respect to people who don’t always receive it. 11-year-olds are well-versed in all of this.
The principal’s own stance justified the girls’ choice of topic.
Here’s the best part, though: The girls came back to school and responded in the most perfect way:
As a silent protest, the two wore rainbow colours to school and painted small rainbow flags on their hands.
When they explained why, their classmates said, “Oh my goodness, guys, that’s such a good idea,” Quinn said. Several other students painted rainbow flags on their hands in solidarity.
Want to know why the Catholic Church is in trouble? Because kids like these know more about human decency than many of the adults around them, and they get reminded of that every time Catholic leaders whine about marriage equality and women’s rights. These are the people who will walk out of the Church the first chance they get because they understand their faith is the problem here, not the solution.
There’s a wonderful update to this story since I first posted about it last year: The same two girls have been working to create the very first Catholic elementary school Gay Straight Alliance in the country:
They first requested to set-up the GSA club back in December and were brought to a nearby Catholic high school to see how they ran theirs…
“The teacher that they gave us … just doesn’t have enough time. All the recesses that we would be doing the GSA, she’s not free,” said Polly. “And we don’t really get any explanations from anybody. Recently we were told to make a proposal to the principal, we have no idea what that meant. Like, proposal on what? Marriage?”
“I think the principal is trying to make it go away until next year,” said Quinn, “and we’ll be at the other school so…”
“But we have a couple Grade 5s that could start it off next year, too,” piped in Polly.
“Our friend, her grandma is lesbian, so it would be a really good thing because she agrees with us and she’s totally with it,” added Quinn.
It’s unclear if the girls’ schedule was the problem or the school officials were just trying to avoid this conversation at all costs. But recently, after months of trying, the girls finally got their wish:
At the end of last week, the girls submitted a second proposal, and this time, the principal accepted it. After six months of struggle, their groundbreaking GSA club, Canada’s first ever in a Catholic elementary school, is set to finally begin in a few days.
That’s just incredible. It’s a testament to the girls’ parents, friends, and supporters that they continued to push for this sort of group — and it’s telling that those who had to adhere to the Catholic Church party line were the constant obstacles in their way.
The Church is giving these girls every reason not to remain Catholic when they’re old enough to break free.