Anti-gay groups have this week launched a fresh assault on California’s LGBT-inclusive FAIR Education Act. Rather than preventing the law from going into effect in January, as a previous campaign failed to do, this new drive seeks to remove all mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history from the lessons California public schools, per the Act, must cover.
The Committee to Repeal SB48, having filed papers (.pdf) with the California Attorney General’s office on November 14, is pushing for a statewide ballot initiative which explicitly seeks to remove from the Act all mention of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” history as well as the Act’s protections from biased instruction relating to “sexual orientation.” The filing says that legislators acted against parents’ wishes in passing this legislation and calls the law (presumably they mean just the parts relating to LGBTs) “indoctrination.”
The new effort hopes to strip LGBT people from the legislation, which was passed and signed into law earlier this year — it goes into effect January 1. Now right-wing groups hope to collect over 500,000 signatures to get the issue on the November 2012 ballot, where voters would be allowed to strip LGBT people from the law’s provisions.
LGBT rights groups have said they are once again ready to defend the law, with a statement on Equality California’s website reading:
This initiative attempt follows an unsuccessful effort earlier this year to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn the FAIR Education Act, which goes into effect January 1, 2012. The group has 150 days from the date the initiative petition is approved for circulation to collect more than 504,760 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
However, the initiative measure must qualify at least 131 days before the November general election.
“In the past few months, organizations across the state have been working tirelessly in coalition to ensure California schools value and protect equality for all Americans, including students and the figures they read about in history books,” said James Gilliam, Deputy Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “This initiative seeks to distort the history taught in California schools and present students with a censored, inaccurate view of our nation, which our coalition will not let stand.””Regardless of these political maneuvers, we are already working with students, administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure that California schools are prepared to follow the FAIR Education Act on January 1st and present a full, fair and accurate picture of history,” said Laura Valdez, Interim Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “Without honest and inclusive classrooms, we cannot expect schools to provide the safe learning environment that all students deserve.”
“Here they go again. At a time when California is facing real economic and social challenges, opponents of equality are manufacturing ‘problems’ to advance their extremist agenda–and they’re using our schools as the battleground,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California Board Chair. “The FAIR Education Act will simply ensure that California’s students learn an honest, accurate, and inclusive account of history, but opponents of equality have grossly distorted the intent and the effect of the FAIR Education act in their quest dismantle it. We know that when Californians learn the facts about the FAIR Education Act they see these efforts for what they are–the same tired attacks and lies these groups have used for years to turn back the clock on LGBT equality.”
Governor Jerry Brown signed SB48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act in July.
The legislation is designed to address gaps in California’s current school textbooks. The FAIR Education Act amends California’s Education Code to include instruction on the contributions of LGBTs, disability rights advocates, racial justice organizations and many other groups who were important in the shaping of history yet have been left out of the curriculum.
The legislation also prohibits discriminatory instruction or discriminatory materials from being used by the State Board of Education. It is hoped that this legislation may also help to passively combat bullying as children learn that LGBTs and other minority groups are very much part of society and have been so throughout history.
A previous attempt made by a group called Stop SB48 sort to have the law blocked outright. This attempt floundered last month when anti-gay groups were unable to rustle up enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Part of the problem was thought to be that Stop SB48 had chosen too broad a fight by wanting to scrap the Act on grounds of LGBT inclusion when disability rights advocates and other minority groups had a stake in wanting the law to remain.
This new attempt by The Committee to Repeal SB48 sidesteps that issue though it would appear, based on the Committee’s accusations that the law indoctrinates, still relies on the same prejudices as before.