SACRAMENTO — California‘s lawmakers are fighting over legislation that would require public schools to include the historical contributions of LGBT people in their curriculum.
Senate Bill 48, introduced by state Sen. Mark D. Leno (D- San Francisco), would require the state’s new social study and history textbooks to include “a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”
The bill — also known as the “Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act” — is a revival of similar efforts launched five years ago when state lawmakers approved a similar measure only to have run into serious opposition from then Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a position on the proposal. But the push has divided religious leaders, educators and lawmakers and prompted accusations from opponents that those behind the effort seek to impose their values on the state and on students and parents who find same-sex relationships objectionable.
“It is, in fact, legislating morality,” said Craig DeLuz, a parent and Sacramento school board member. “It is requiring taxpayers to foot the bill to promote a lifestyle to which they may or may not be morally opposed.”
Leno said the bill addresses “a glaring oversight in educating young people that has led to harassment of gays by their classmates.”
During a recent Senate Education Committee hearing, Leno emotionally invoked the name of Seth Walsh, the13-year-old student from Tehachapi, Calif., who committed suicide last year after enduring years of anti-gay bullying.
“In light of the ongoing and ever-threatening phenomenon of bullying and the tragic result of suicides, it seems to me that better informed students might be more welcoming in their approach to differences among their classmates,” Leno said. “Students would better understand that we are talking about a civil rights movement.”
If passed, SB 48 could have impact beyond California’s borders. Since the state is a major purchaser of educational textbooks, national book publishers often print books tailored for California curriculum that other states utilize.
The legislation would require that social science texts and other instruction include “a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans … 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.”
Republicans are aggressively opposing the measure. Sen. Robert Huff (R-Diamond Bar), said measure would “sexualize the training of our children at an early age.”
The committee approved the measure along party lines by a vote of 6-3 last week.
Gay and lesbian students advocating for the bill are expected to hold a rally Monday at the state Capitol.