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Repeal effort of California’s FAIR Education Act cleared for signatures

Repeal effort of California’s FAIR Education Act cleared for signatures

SAN FRANCISCO — State officials have given anti-gay activists the go-ahead to gather petition signatures to repeal Senate Bill 48, also known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act. The law requires that California school students be taught about the historical contributions of LGBT people.

The proposed anti-SB 48 initiative, which the secretary of state’s office cleared for circulation Tuesday, February 21, would undo that requirement.

Among other provisions, the state attorney general’s office spelled out that the proposal would also remove the stipulation that schools prohibit instructional materials that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, disabilities, gender, or other characteristics.

Proponents have until July 16 to collect the 504,760 valid signatures they’ll need in order to get their measure on the November ballot. Having the money needed to hire paid signature gatherers would likely be key to backers’ success.

Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute and its affiliated Capitol Resource Family Impact, is among the backers of the proposal.

England wasn’t available to comment for this story. A message left at a phone number for proponents that was provided by the secretary of state’s office wasn’t returned.

A previous attempt backed by England and others to repeal SB 48, which took effect January 1, failed last fall. The proposal’s supporters claimed they came close to gathering the almost 505,000 signatures they needed, but it’s not known if that figure is accurate.

Rebekah Orr, a spokeswoman for Equality California, a key SB 48 sponsor, said her group is keeping an eye on the law’s opponents.

“One thing we’re looking at most closely is whether they have any money,” she said, adding that so far it appears that they don’t.

If the anti-gay activists gain momentum, EQCA will have plenty of fundraising to do too, however.

Orr said if the proposal makes it to the ballot, tens of millions of dollars would be needed to defeat it.

She said that a coalition that was formed last year to preserve SB 48 still exists, but she wouldn’t say how much money has been collected for the effort.

EQCA has resources available “to use as seed funds for a campaign,” Orr said, but “of course we need other folks to bring resources to the table as well.”

She said people with her group are currently talking to voters about SB 48 “every day,” and working to build their list of supporters. Proper implementation of the law is also important, she said, so that they can show opponents “This isn’t the big scary thing you’re making it out to be.”

The secretary of state’s office cleared another proposal to gut SB 48 on January 26. A message left at the Traditional Values Coalition’s office in Anaheim, California, wasn’t returned.

Anti-gay activist Richard Rios had also proposed undoing SB 48, but he eventually dropped those efforts.

Rios said in late January that he’d stick with a proposal that he’d submitted to allow parents to opt their children out of school instruction in social science and family life that conflicts with their moral convictions. Parents can already opt their children out of health lessons.

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