Effort to reverse Calif. gay history law fails

Baptist Press
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Posted: Oct 13, 2011 5:22 PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) -- A coalition of Christian and conservative groups has fallen short in its signature drive to overturn California's first-in-the-nation gay history law -- a law that could impact the nation.

Members of the coalition said Oct. 12 they had failed to gather the 505,000 signatures necessary by the deadline to try and overturn the law at the ballot. The next day they said they had gathered 497,404 signatures, a number that likely is not as close to the goal as it first seems because -- if past history is indicative -- several thousand would have been tossed out as invalid.

The coalition faced an uphill battle from the beginning, relying on an all-volunteer effort without any significant funding. Unlike many other signature drives in the state, the effort did not use paid canvassers -- people who are paid to gather signatures. The coalition, known as StopSB48, had less than three months to gather the signatures.

"While we did not qualify the referendum, our efforts did not go unnoticed," the coalition said in an email to supporters. "We gained more than 497,000 signatures without the use of paid signature gatherers. That is unprecedented. And we did this on a small fraction of the budget traditionally required to gather that many signatures."

StopSB48 officials also said the effort was not about hatred but about protecting children.

"Despite what they say about us, we opposed SB 48 simply because we do not believe that children should be exposed to an intentionally one-sided argument about lifestyles and values we do not hold," the coalition said.

The fight against the law may not be over, the coalition added.

"While the referendum was the best way to stop SB48 in its tracks, there are other ways for the citizens of California to respond to bad laws," the coalition said. "We are discussing our next move and will keep you informed as decisions are made."

The new law, signed in July by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, will go into effect Jan. 1 and could impact other states because it forces social science textbooks to include the "role and contributions" of "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans." California is one of the nation's largest buyers of textbooks, and its textbooks often make their way to other states.

"There are two or three states which, because of their population, drive the textbook industry for the other 47 states -- California being the first among equals," Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute, told Baptist Press. "If these textbook companies are required to adopt these new standards, then that could be in essence the standard by default on a number of other states that purchase California textbooks."

The new law prohibits instructional materials from "reflecting adversely" upon homosexuals -- language some conservative leaders say would impact what is taught about marriage.

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

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