One more try to reverse Calif. gay history law

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 07, 2011 5:52 PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) -- A coalition of pro-family groups in California has launched another effort to overturn the state's landmark law that requires gay history be taught in public schools.

The coalition submitted a proposed initiative to the California attorney general's office Tuesday (Dec. 6) and said it expects to begin collecting signatures in early 2012, after the initiative is approved. The first attempt to reverse the law, known as SB 48, failed when the coalition gathered 497,000 signatures, shy of the 505,000 that are required.

With a new initiative, supporters will have a full 90 days to gather the signatures, something they didn't have last time. The law goes into effect in January. A news release said the initiative will reverse the "overreaching aspects" of the law. The initiative is dubbed the Children Learning Accurate Social Science (CLASS) Act.

"We feel very positive about our ability to gain the necessary signatures," Karen England of Capitol Resource Family Impact said in a statement.

Earlier this year the coalition attempted to gather the required number of signatures without using paid canvassers -- that is, people who are paid to gather signatures. All-volunteer efforts are rarely successful. Still, they came close to their target. They never submitted the signatures to the state, so it is not known how many would have been tossed out as invalid, although historically, it likely would have been several thousand.

SB 48 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. The new law prohibits instructional materials from "reflecting adversely" upon homosexuals -- language some conservative leaders say would impact what is taught about marriage.

In October, the Los Angeles Times reported that schools are scrambling to prepare lessons in order to follow the law. Significantly, the law has no age limit.

"Will fourth-graders learn that some of the Gold Rush miners were gay and helped build San Francisco?" the Times story asked. "Will students be taught about the 'two-spirited people' tradition among some Native Americans, as one gay historian mused?"

At least seven families in Riverside County pulled their children out of public schools in protest, the newspaper said. Their Christian beliefs were a core reason.

"This law teaches children that it's OK to be gay, and that's not my Christian values," parent Bryan Breuer told the Times. "I don't understand trying to force this on my children."

The language of the proposed initiative was not released, but Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute Center for Public Policy said it will provide an appropriate balance.

"We drafted an initiative that responds to the perception that some want to ignore the contributions of certain individuals," Snider said. "This initiative prohibits history book exclusion of anybody based on their membership in a protected class. But it requires an accurate, historical portrayal of any individual."

Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, Calif., said voters need to examine the law.

"We all know that the issue of homosexuality is controversial," Hibbs said. "It is unacceptable to require that our schools shine a spotlight on this lifestyle on the one hand and then demand that history books and teachers censor shortcomings on the other."

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

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