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Texas amends textbooks to define marriage

The Texas Board of Education has approved new health textbooks that define marriage as between a man and a woman. NBC's Jim Cummins reports.

Members of the Texas state school board say the overwhelming rejection of gay marriage in 11 states on Tuesday justifies what they did Friday.

"I think they spoke on Election Day — even Oregon — they all have passed the Defense of Marriage Act," says school board member Terri Leo. "I think the country has spoken."

Even before the election, the Texas school board urged publishers to change the new health textbooks to reflect traditional marriage.

Some of the changes in one textbook:

  • Old text: "When two people decide to marry…"
  • New text: "When a man and a woman decide to marry…"
  • Old text: "When two individuals understand that marriage is their individual goal…”
  • New text:  "When a man and a woman understand that marriage is their individual goal…”

The Texas State Board of Education is mostly Republican, but the vote to amend the textbooks was almost unanimous.

Republican Leo, of Houston, says the changes were necessary because Texas law prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex unions.

"Marriage has been defined in Texas," says Leo. "So it should also be defined in our textbooks that we use as marriage between a man and a woman."

But Randall Ellis, with the Lesbian and Gay Rights lobby of Texas, says the amendments are just part of a larger right-wing agenda.

"On the issues of gays and lesbians and the definitions of marriage, it was petty, reckless, irresponsible ... just plain wrong," says Ellis.

Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the country, so those same amended texts will be used by public school students in dozens of other states.

"We really write the books for the rest of the nation," says Leo.

But Ellis believes the new texts send the wrong message.

"There is a group of gay and lesbian students that go to school here in the United States that are using those books and they feel alienated when the information is not as appropriate for them as well as their peers," says Ellis.

The new, amended, health class textbooks will be used in Texas classrooms beginning next school year.