Jasmin, who is home-schooled, is worried that same sex marriage laws will lead to ducks taking over the world: twitter.com/leigh_howard/s…— leigh_howard (@leigh_howard) October 4, 2012
The letter from 14-year-old, homeschooled Jasmin - warning that “if homosexuality spreads… it could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder, and say, ducks, could take over the world” - is definitely real, in the sense that it was published in New Zealand’s Northern Outlook newspaper on October 3, 2012 - you can read it online here, although you’ll you need to register (hat-tip to Padraig Reidy).
Not only that, but there’s been quite a bit of follow up in the subsequent letters pages of Northern Outlook. On October 6, several readers wrote in to question Jasmin’s grasp of evolutionary theory and duck sexual behaviour, and suggesting that the fact she was home-schooled may be to blame for this:
On October 10 (the Northern Outlook publishes twice a week) another letter was published, also disagreeing with Jasmin’s position, and making a broader liberal point about tolerance of homsexuality. It was published along with a nice picture of a duck:
On October 13, there was some pushback against those correcting Jasmin - including one letter which states that “there is no scientific proof for evolution” and that “homosexuality is a sin and one of the reasons for Canterbury’s earthquakes”. The other letter, while significantly less entertaining, is more interesting from a verification point of view - it comes from someone who appears to be a relative of Jasmin, and who discusses her homeschooling and how she came to her opinions:
This leads us to the other question about whether the letter is real - it was certainly published, but was the paper taken in by a hoax letter? It’s impossible to say for sure without actually tracking down and speaking to the family - but the non-standard spelling of Jasmin’s name, along with knowing roughly the area she is said to live in and the name of a supposed relative, gives us some indications that she is a real person. For example, the name is mentioned in this PDF from a New Zealand Christian group (as spotted by Anya Palmer). Both Jasmin and her relative appear to have signed this petition against gay marriage in New Zealand. Both give their location on the petition as being in the same area as the letters in the paper. Someone with her relative’s name also appears to run workshops on homeschooling from a Christian perspective, and so on. So, on balance, it seems likely that the letter is entirely genuine.
(Note: we haven’t included Jasmin’s surname or particular details of where in New Zealand she lives in the text of this post, because she’s 14 years old and we don’t really want to contribute to a set of Google results that might follow her around for many years to come. We also haven’t gone any further in attempting to dig up details of the family, because writing a silly letter to a newspaper isn’t a crime, and they should be left in peace, even if they are wrong about ducks and gays.)