A controversial measure that would require teachers in California to include gay history in their social studies curriculum is awaiting the governor's signature.
The bill, dubbed the "Fair Education Act." adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people to a list of groups schools must include in their history lessons.
SB48, approved by lawmakers this week, requires the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other curriculum that includes the contributions and roles of sexual minorities in U.S. history lessons by the 2013-2014 school year.
The bill's author, Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, says, "It's only beneficial to share with students the broad diversity of the human experience and that our democracy protects everyone."
Opponents of the measure, like Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, says he is offended that the measure is being used to promote what he calls a "homosexual agenda" in public schools.
"It's one thing to say 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."
Openly gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who voted in favor of the measure, said "I don't want to be invisible in a textbook."
The idea of including gay history in social studies curriculum is gaining momentum in multicultural/multiethnic education circles. For decades African Americans, Native populations and Hispanics have been conspicuously absent from textbooks. In recent years, multiculturalists have noted the absence of gender issues as well.
Like Washington, California law already requires schools to teach about African Americans, Hispanics and Native populations. A law requiring public schools to include lessons on the exclusion, removal and detention of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II fell victim to budget cuts. The law was suspended by the Washington legislature in their last session to save money.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction defines social studies curriculum as being one that should, "promote respect for the underlying values of a diverse democratic society. As a result, students comprehend the ideals of democracy and strive to live their lives in accordance with them. A reasoned commitment to democratic values motivates citizens to safeguard their rights, to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens, and to honor the dignity of all people"
Lawmakers in Washington have not yet considered a proposal to include gay history in public school curriculum.
The California legislation now sits on Governor Brown's desk awaiting his signature. A similar proposal passed by the legislature in 2006 was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.