Calif. gay history bill close to becoming law, impacting U.S.
Updated with quote from Pacific Justice Institute
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--In a move that could impact the rest of the nation, California is close to becoming the first state to mandate the teaching of gay history in public schools after the state Assembly passed such a bill July 5, sending it to the governor.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has not said whether he would sign it, but he sides with homosexual groups on most issues and supports "gay marriage." Supporters tried to pass a similar bill in 2006 but stripped the language in the face of opposition from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill passed the Assembly, 49-25, nearly three months after it passed the state Senate, 23-14. Both are controlled by Democrats.
It would make California the first state to require social science classes to include the "role and contributions" of "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans." The latter term includes people who cross dress and physically change their sex. Even more significant, it would mandate that "instructional materials" -- including textbooks -- include the history of homosexuals. Because California is one of the nation's largest buyers of textbooks, its decision could impact other states.
The bill prohibits instructional materials from "reflecting adversely" upon homosexuals -- language that some critics say could influence what is taught about the definition of marriage. The bill is S.B. 48.
Significantly, the bill does not include a grade limit, meaning that gay history could be taught in elementary schools. The California Family Council sent out an email alert warning that "children as young as kindergarten age" could be taught.
Critics said the bill is a setback for parental rights and religious liberty.
"I think it's one thing to say that we should be tolerant," Republican state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said during floor debate, according to the Associated Press. "It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good."
He told his colleagues, "As a Christian I am deeply offended."
The California Family Council said that because the curriculum is not part of a "sexual education" course, parents would not have an opt-out option and would not be informed when gay history would be taught. The council, along with others, are urging Brown to veto the bill.
California represents nearly 13 percent of the textbook market, according a Reuters story that quotes stats from the Association of American Publishers. The fear on the part of traditionalists is that California's textbooks will make their way into other states.
"The reality is that the major textbook manufacturers do not create different textbooks for each state," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute legal group, which opposes the bill. "Instead, they seek to comply with mandates in the largest states, especially California and Texas. As a result, many smaller states are pressured into approving California-focused instructional materials, which must now cater to the gay history mandate."
Assembly Speaker John Perez, who is homosexual, said the bill is needed.
"This bill will require California schools to present a more accurate and nuanced view of American history in our social science curriculum by recognizing the accomplishments of groups that are not often recognized," Perez was quoted as saying by AP.
Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego and a bill opponent, said debate over the bill is full of irony. In 2008, when opponents of "gay marriage" were warning that homosexuality would be taught as normative in schools if it remained legal, supporters of "gay marriage" adamantly disagreed.
"The very same ones are pushing this legislation to do exactly that -- to teach that homosexual behavior is normal, that it's acceptable, and that people because of their sexual behavior are somehow heroes in our society," Clark previously told Baptist Press.
The goal, Clark said, is "to put homosexuality on the same level as a minority status based on race or color or religion."
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, called it a "brash attack upon children's innocence."
"There's already a raft of school sexual indoctrination laws on the books," Thomasson said in a statement. "Impressionable children are already being sexual indoctrinated, but SB 48 would be the most in-your-face brainwashing yet. We urge Governor Brown to respect parents, remember basic academics, and basic family values, and veto this bad bill when it reaches his desk. True history focuses on the accomplishments of people -- it doesn't talk about what they did in the bedroom."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.