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by Rex Wockner
Activists who oppose gay rights are more riled up than usual about a bill working its way through the California Legislature, says Equality California, which has shepherded 76 pro-LGBT measures through the legislature and seen 42 of them signed into law. (Twenty other measures were resolutions that didn’t need the governor’s signature. Fourteen of the group’s bills were vetoed.)
SB 48, “The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act,” would amend the Education Code to require that schools provide “a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.”
It also would prohibit classroom instruction and school-sponsored activities that “promote … a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality (or) sexual orientation.”
The bill requires that social-sciences textbooks and other social-sciences instructional material used in California adhere to the proposed law’s requirements.
Sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the measure passed the Senate Education Committee 6-3 in late March and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 3-2 on April 5.
“It is one of our priority bills and I believe it will pass (the full Legislature),” said EQCA Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll. “The EQCA-PAC’s policy of only endorsing candidates who are 100 percent on our issues, including education, has resulted in enough legislators who will support this bill to get it to Gov. (Jerry) Brown’s desk. And the governor’s preference for local control is met in the bill’s language, so I think he’ll sign it.”
Carroll said that should the bill pass, he wouldn’t be surprised to see opponents attempt to repeal it at the ballot box. In 2008, such activists repealed same-sex marriage in California by convincing voters to amend the state constitution.
“I assume that some leaders of the more fundamentalist segments of our society will try to use SB 48 and any bill that tries to protect youth to raise money and drum up support for their sad position,” he said. “They tried in 2008 to gather signatures to overturn another Equality California-sponsored education bill … and failed miserably. I assume they might try to qualify for the ballot again around SB 48 or even try to reverse all our safe-schools protections.”
Recently retired EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors was present at the Senate Education Committee session on March 23 as SB 48 passed.
“There were two things that were particularly disturbing,” Kors said in an interview. “Years ago the rhetoric was pretty offensive, and then it toned down, but this time the rhetoric really ratcheted up. (Activists speaking against the bill) said that if we teach about LGBT people in schools, then we will be able to win any campaign. In other words, if people learn the truth, then the gays win and the haters lose. They said we wanted to teach kids how to cut off their body parts, and they talked about how this is sexual indoctrination, that we want to sexualize young people into this terrible life.”
Kors also was disturbed, he said, that pro-gay legislators on the committee seemed tolerant of the activists’ statements.
“Even among those who voted for us, they said they appreciated how respectful all the people who testified were, meaning no one was yelling or booing,” he said. “It’s time for elected officials who support us to stop saying that this is respectful debate. There’s nothing respectful about saying that LGBT people are immoral, about saying that homosexuality can be changed, that it goes against God’s plan. … Homophobic and transphobic people who testify this way are not respectful.”