Brown signed the bill, S.B. 48, after it had passed the Assembly, 49-25, and the Senate, 23-14.
California represents nearly 13 percent of the textbook market, according to stats from the Association of American Publishers quoted by Reuters. The fear on the part of traditionalists is that California's textbooks will make their way into other states.
It is the role of parents, and not schools, to broach the subject of homosexuality, opponents say. They also say schools should not be celebrating something to which they are morally opposed.
"The reality is that the major textbook manufacturers do not create different textbooks for each state," Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute legal group which opposed the bill, said in a statement. "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."
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.
The new law also requires the contributions of Pacific islanders and persons with disabilities be included in the textbooks, but the language about homosexuals has been at the heart of the controversy.
Brown, a Democrat, said the new law is needed.
"History should be honest," he said in a statement. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books. It represents an important step forward for our state...."
The law has no age or grade limit, leading opponents to charge that gay history could be taught in elementary school. 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.
"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 added, "As a Christian I am deeply offended."
Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, said the goal by supporters of the law is "to put homosexuality on the same level as a minority status based on race or color or religion."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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