Opponents of a California law requiring that the contributions of gays and lesbians be taught in public schools failed Wednesday in their attempt to qualify a ballot referendum to repeal the law.
The groups wanted to force a vote on Senate Bill 48, the nation's first law requiring that public schools include gay rights milestones and gay and lesbian contributions in social studies lessons. It takes effect in January.
Groups that had been circulating signature petitions said they would not meet Wednesday's deadline.
Brad Dacus, a spokesman for the Pacific Justice Institute, said his organization and other opponents collected about two-thirds of the 505,000 petition signatures they needed.
Traditional Values Coalition spokesman Benjamin Lopez earlier said the groups had decided not to file regardless of whether they reached the threshold.
Equality California spokeswoman Rebekah Orr, who represents California's largest gay rights group, said supporters are relieved but expect a continued fight in the courts, Legislature, at the ballot box or in local school districts that must implement the law.
Dacus said opponents will now try to make the law an issue in next year's re-election campaigns by Democrats who supported the measure.
He said opponents also are considering seeking enough signatures for a broader ballot proposition that would target laws they feel infringe on parental rights to govern what their children learn in school. However, opponents would have to work around California's single-subject rule, meaning initiatives can address only one issue at a time.
He would not say which other laws might be included.
"Legislators in Sacramento have been put on notice if they pass something that is disrespectful to parents and the way parents want their children to be raised, they can and will, in one way or another, be held accountable," Dacus said in a telephone interview.
He said the groundswell of dissatisfaction was evident because his organization and the Capitol Resource Institute were able to gather thousands of signatures in just 90 days without time to raise the money needed to hire professional signature-gatherers.
Orr, of Equality California, predicted opponents' fight will become more difficult once the law takes effect.
"They've used a lot of scare tactics and made a lot of statements that aren't true," she said. "All of these sorts of wild claims will not materialize in the classroom and California voters will realize this is really much ado about nothing."