Why Gay History Could Make History In California

Back in April, bill SB-48 was introduced in California; it would require standard curriculum to include education about gay and lesbian role models in social science textbooks. Now, months later, it’s passed the State Assembly and California Governor Jerry Brown has 12 days to either sign or veto it.

Of course, like anything involving queers in the school system, the bill is the subject of much controversy. Its opponents claim that it’s dangerous material for children to be exposed to:

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, said he was offended as a Christian that the bill was being used to promote a “homosexual agenda” in public schools. “I think it’s one thing to say that we should be tolerant,” Donnelly said. “It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good.”

Supporters of the bill appear to be more offended as human beings that so many gay kids in schools all over the country are killing themselves, a problem that really can get a lot better with more measures like this. When kids see themselves reflected in reality around them, they’re less likely to want to disappear; when straight kids see that gay people have had a huge impact on our nation’s history, they’re less likely to torture their peers.

There’s also the factor that – as we talked about back in April – California is basically the most important state this could possibly be happening in. Despite being only 2% of the states in the union and roughly 12% of the US population, California made up 13% of the US textbook market in 2009, and had at least 6.2 million children in public school. The buying power of the state of California can easily influence the content that gets put into textbooks that will end up being purchased all over America.  California has been the site of several groundbreaking and progressive new achievements for queers, and especially queer kids – for instance, LA County is the pioneer of a multimillion dollar pilot program aimed at supporting homeless gay youth. California’s size and influence give supporters of these measures hope that they are more likely to happen in other states, as well.

California is facing a major budget problem, though, and so far much of Brown’s time as governor has been spent trying to close the gap. California is still reeling from the budget crisis that occurred during Schwarzenegger’s time as governor. SB-48 would require California schools to include this educational material in their curriculum as soon as the 2013-2014 school year; for a governor whose only hope of success is tightly controlling spending, passing SB-48 is a serious test of where his priorities lie. Opponents of the bill will likely criticize it as an unjustifiable expense during the 12 days of heavy lobbying on both sides that is certain up ahead.

It’s also interesting that this battle is going down in California for another reason – school curriculum was a major issue in the vote on Prop 8, even if it was a totally misinformed controversy. Part of Protect Marriage’s campaign for Prop 8 in California was the insistence that without it, children would be “taught gay marriage” in schools. Prop 8 opponents derided this as a scare tactic and distraction from the real issue; this was accurate, as there was no language whatsoever in the bill on same-sex marriage in California about school curriculums. Their only ammunition was a single lawsuit in Massachusetts, where marriage has been legal since 2004, in which one pair of parents was upset that their child was read a book about two princes getting married in the classroom. The book and the lawsuit were completely unrelated to marriage equality, and the lawsuit was dismissed, and subsequent appeals have failed. That didn’t dissuade people like this gentleman, however. Nor did it stop Protect Marriage from running this charming PSA, either:

[yframe url=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7352ZVMKBQM’]

The progress of SB-48 three years later has no direct link to Proposition 8, but it does seem ironic that same-sex marriage still isn’t possible for Californian couples while a major part of the reason it was denied to them may become a reality.

There’s no word on how Governor Brown will vote; his office has given no comment one way or the other. Brown is a Democrat who was supported by Equality California during the gubernatorial election; EQCA has met with him twice now to urge him to pass the bill. It passed the Assembly 49-25, a fairly large margin, but a similar bill was vetoed by (Republican) Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006. This time the bill is championed by a number of openly gay lawmakers and California officials – for instance, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, or Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who says that “I don’t want to be invisible in a textbook.” Hopefully, their voices will be heard, so that children across the state (and maybe eventually the country) can hear their own stories told.


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Rachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. “I think it’s one thing to say that we should be tolerant,” Donnelly said. “It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good.”

    It’s statements like this one that make me want to cry and punch people in the face at the same time. I can’t/don’t want to believe that people actually feel this way. What the fuck is wrong with people.

    • Maybe someone should explain the meaning of tolerance to this man. I think maybe he’s a little confused.

      Also, starting the quote with, “it’s one thing to say that we should be tolerant,” implies that being tolerant is already going above and beyond. what. the. fuck.

  2. I think about how nice it would have been to read about fellow homogays when I was growing up, not on my own (which was fun in its’ own way), but out there in the open, written right there on the chalk board and right there in my hands.

    When I think about that, I get a little ~emotastic. I can admit that. I’m dyke enough.

  3. “When kids see themselves reflected in reality around them, they’re less likely to want to disappear.”

    This is so true and so beautifully phrased. I sort of want to stencil it on a book bag or something.

  4. It’s hard to take anything on that gentleman’s blog seriously when his banner says that “Obamacare = publicly-funded abortion.” He obviously did lots of Googling to find all those links for his anti-gay tirade, so how has he never heard about the Hyde Amendment without being WILLFULLY ignorant?

  5. Coming out of the closet and into a classroom near you… Alexander the Great, Socrates, Alan Turing, Sappho, Aristotle, Harvey Milk, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Tchaikovsky, Marcel Proust, Federico Garcia Lorca, Frida Kahlo, Cole Porter, Virginia Woolf, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci…

  6. i want this to happen so badly. when you grow up believing all gays are heathens, and you start to have feelings for girls, it creates a lot of hate. but when you find out that a lot of your favorite things have a history of homosexuality, it makes it a lot easier. that’s how it worked for me at least.

  7. I so want this to pass as I have 2 young kids, and one ready to enter kindergarten. He already thinks everyone has 2 mommies even though he is vaguely aware but doesn’t care he doesn’t have a daddy. At least not now. But I would love for his school to teach about gay people.

  8. Homophobes, you fail to acknowledge the 50% divorce rate among heterosexuals, the millions of heterosexual women who have abortions every year, and the countless heterosexuals who “commit adultery” or those who simply marry for money or opportunity. Tsk, tsk.

    Looks like some people need to preach to those within THEIR own group.

    Homophobes: Hypocrisy is DEFINITELY nothing new.

    Show me ANYWHERE in the Constitution where it says that same-sex couples cannot marry. SHOW ME. Prove it…and if you cannot….you are as wrong as a Republican “willfully” giving tax cuts to the poor. PROVE IT HOMOPHOBES. Our Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” YOU AND OTHER HOMOPHOBES can push all your religious crap on others ALL YOU WANT, but in my country, your religious viewpoint IS JUST THAT. Sorry, IT’S NOT THE LAW OF THE LAND. This is America where we have religious freedom.

    If you homophobes WANT “forced religion” LEAVE America then. Go to countries which happily force religion on others and persecute their citizens for believing anything different. IT’S MY CHOICE if I want to go to church or not. IT’S MY CHOICE if I want to believe what YOU believe. Religious freedom is a wonderful thing. It’s something we should CHERISH and PROTECT in the USA.

    Polls are showing more and more EVERY YEAR that more people support marriage equality. The laugh is on the homophobes. Life will be oh so very sad for them when marriage equality is the law of the land. I hope they will be able to cope!!! It’s ok. It’s not their fault they don’t understand the United States Constitution.

    Show me where in the Constitution where it says Blacks and Whites can’t marry or where it says same sex couples can’t marry. The only thing stale is YOUR religious argument which holds no water, homophobes.

    Educate yourself on the separation of church and state.

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