by Rex Wockner
The Courage Campaign announced Aug. 1 that it has teamed up with Equality California and other organizations in an attempt to stop a ballot referendum on the new California law that requires schools to teach LGBT people’s history.
Courage said it will run a “decline-to-sign” campaign with EQCA, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the University of California Academic Student Employees Union.
The goal is to prevent anti-gay forces from collecting 504,760 signatures from registered California voters by Oct. 12, which would qualify the proposed repeal referendum for next June’s statewide ballot.
“First our opponents wanted to ban love, so they invented Prop 8,” said Courage Chair Rick Jacobs. “Now, they want to use the same fear tactics to prevent California high school students from learning history. They want to gloss over the fact that important people in history like Walt Whitman, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Bayard Rustin, Billie Jean King, Leonard Bernstein, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Harvey Milk and even J. Edgar Hoover were gay.”
Jacobs said that as during the Prop 8 campaign, opponents will use “fear and prejudice to scare the voters.”
“If the folks who oppose (the teaching law) have their way, they’ll put a referendum on the ballot to overturn allowing real history to be told,” he said.
The new law, which also is known as Senate Bill 48, takes effect in January. Current California law requires schools to teach about the history of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans and members of other ethnic and cultural groups. SB 48 added LGBT people and people with disabilities to the list.
On Aug. 5, Equality California announced it has launched an SB 48 hotline and created “truth squads” to interrupt signature-gathering – both on the LGBT referendum and other, unnamed anti-“progressive” campaigns.
“We need your eyes and ears on the ground today,” said EQCA Executive Director Roland Palencia. “If you spot anti-LGBT, anti-progressive signature gatherers, report them immediately by calling the toll-free ‘Decline to Sign Hotline’ at 1-877-440-9585. We’ll immediately dispatch a trained ‘truth squad’ to make sure potential petition signers know the truth about these initiatives including the referendum on the FAIR Education Act.”
Meanwhile, Lambda Legal’s legal director, Jon Davidson, said Aug. 1 that if the repeal referendum passes, it might be found unconstitutional.
That’s because in 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws cannot single out gay people for disfavored treatment. See http://www.tinyurl.com/romer-v.
“If the referendum qualifies for the ballot, and were it to receive more ‘no’ than ‘yes’ votes, not only would SB 48 not become law, but no measure that is essentially the same as it could be adopted in the future,” Davidson said. “In this way, the referendum could be characterized as quite similar to the measure that the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional in Romer v. Evans. That measure repealed existing sexual orientation anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals and prevented their passage in the future for that group and that group alone, which is what more no votes than yes on the referendum would do when it comes to having a fair and inclusive curriculum. Moreover, there no doubt would be significant evidence of anti-LGBT sentiment motivating those behind the referendum, which would bolster any challenge to it.”