By DON THOMPSON
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A law promoting the historical contributions of gays and lesbians took effect with the new year in California, even as opponents seek to overturn the legislation at the ballot box.
On Jan. 1, California becomes the first state to require public schools to teach the contributions of gays and lesbians. The law adds people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose “roles and contributions” must be included in California and U.S. history lessons. It bans instructional materials judged to reflect adversely on gays or particular religions.
“We’re talking about teaching historical facts at a grade-appropriate level. That’s all it is,” said Equality California spokeswoman Rebekah Orr, who represents California’s largest gay-rights group.
Opponents are not giving up on overturning SB48, despite failing in October to gather enough signatures to force a referendum to repeal the law.
They have filed five potential ballot initiatives that would repeal the requirement outright or let parents pull their children from classes when gay and lesbian contributions are being taught. The opponents have until spring to gather enough signatures to put the referendums before voters in November.
“That law undermines the integrity of objective history instruction for students, and even more importantly undermines the rights of parents in deciding what is appropriate for their child regarding controversial moral and lifestyle issues,” argued Brad Dacus, a spokesman for the Pacific Justice Institute, which is helping lead one of the repeal efforts.
State Sen. Mark Leno said his bill is even more important in light of recent publicity about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students being bullied, which has been blamed for some suicides of homosexual students.
“We are currently censuring the history and role and contribution of LGBT-Americans,” said Leno, D-San Francisco. “It’s no different than when the idea of black history or women’s history was first proposed- radical concepts at the time.”