Supporters tried unsuccessfully to push a similar bill through the legislature five years ago, only to drop the idea in the face of opposition from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. But new Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is friendlier to the homosexual community's goals and is far more likely to sign it.
The bill passed the state Senate April 14, 23-14, and must pass the Assembly before going to Brown. Democrats control both chambers.
It would 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.
Further, 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.
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 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."
Sen. Mark Leno, an openly homosexual man, is the bill's chief sponsor.
"Most textbooks don't include any information about historical figures or their civil rights movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history," Leno said at a press conference, according to the Orange County Register. "This selective censorship sends the wrong message to all young people, and especially to those who do not identify as straight."
In 2006, then-state Sen. Sheila Kuehl gave an example of a "gay history" lesson.
"You could study James Baldwin's novels and they say James Baldwin was an African-American writer, but they could say he was an African-American gay writer," Kuehl said.
Some elements of homosexual history already are being taught in many California schools. Under a law signed in 2009, schools have the option of celebrating Harvey Milk Day, named for the nation's first openly homosexual person elected to public office. Milk was a San Francisco city supervisor who was assassinated in 1978 by another supervisor.
The Sacramento City Unified School District "is encouraging its teachers to talk to their pupils" about Milk, according to an April story in the Bay Area Reporter, a homosexual newspaper. Grades 4-12 can participate. One of the materials that can be used is "In Celebration of Harvey Milk," a workbook written by a fourth-grade teacher who is lesbian.
Lawrence Shweky, who co-chairs the district's LGBT Task Force, told the Reporter that the goal is to use Milk's story as an inroad to discussing the broader homosexual community.
Leno's bill, though, would go much further than the Harvey Milk law by mandating that the history be taught not only about Milk but about other figures in history. It would not be optional.
"Parents don't want and children don't need 'LGBTIQ' role models in school," Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said in April. "SB 48 is sexual brainwashing in the extreme. It's damaging and nonacademic to teach children a lie -- that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality are natural and healthy lifestyles, when they're not."
Thomasson told FoxNews.com, "Teach them about the good behavior, the noble things that people have done, but you don't have to go into what they do sexually.... 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. Join Baptist Press' Facebook page or Twitter feed to comment on this and other articles. Visit facebook.com/baptistpress or Twitter.com/Baptist Press.
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