Gay history law may make Calif. ballot
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) -- A landmark California law that legalized the teaching of gay history in California's public school might still be reversed at the ballot, months after an earlier signature drive aimed at overturning it fell short.
Opponents of the law are trying once again to collect enough signatures to place the issue before California voters, and they believe they have a much greater chance for success this time, mainly because they have more time to gather the necessary 500,000 valid signatures.
Last year, they had about two months to collect the signatures and they gathered a total of 497,000, although, based on past signature drives, several thousand likely would have been tossed out as invalid.
This year, they have four months to gather the signatures, which they've been doing since March. The deadline is mid-July. They hope to gather 700,000, giving them a comfortable cushion.
"Based upon [the extra time] we're very confident that we will be able to be successful," Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told Baptist Press. PJI opposes the law.
The proposed initiative is known as the Class Act and would reverse the law, known as S.B. 48. It is the only state in the nation with such a law.
The new law requires 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 mandates that "instructional materials" -- including textbooks -- include the history of homosexuals. The law also prohibits instructional materials from "reflecting adversely" upon homosexuals -- language some conservative leaders say would impact what is taught about marriage.
In addition to reversing S.B. 48, the proposed Class Act would clarify what is and is not allowed under law regarding the teaching of history. If passed, the Class Act initiative would "bring back a sense of moderation and reason into the study of social science," Snider said. A person would not "be excluded because he or she belongs to a protected class -- including gays or lesbians -- but nor will that person be included because he or she belongs to a protected class."
As it reads now, Snider says, the gay history law prevents criticism of gays.
"We think that all people have aspects of their life, both good and bad, and we do children a terrible disservice if we sugarcoat history," Snider said. "History needs to be told accurately."
The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, could have a national impact, particularly in textbooks.
"There are about two or three states which drive the textbook industry based on their textbook population," Snider said. "California is the main one. Other states generally do not get textbooks custom-made for them. And so, as a practical matter, this is going to be something that states will have to face as far as what's going to be offered in instructional materials."
More information is available at classact2012.com
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.