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"If you're a black American, you can't help it. You are born that way. There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence that homosexuality is biological in origin." -- Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside. Associated Press photo by Rich Pedroncelli
"All we're saying is let us also be reflected in history." -- Sen. Sheila Kuhl, D-Santa Monica. Associated Press photo by Rich Pedroncelli
Senate OKs bill on gays in textbooks
Emotions run high about teaching their contributions
- Greg Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Friday, May 12, 2006
Sacramento -- After a sometimes emotional debate, the state Senate approved a bill Thursday requiring public school instructional materials to contain "age appropriate" discussions of the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The measure also prohibits teaching or textbooks that reflect adversely on people because of their sexual orientation.
Opponents argued that the bill goes too far and is unnecessary, because schools can voluntarily offer instruction about gays.
Supporters said textbooks are silent about the contributions of gays and lesbians just as they were once silent about those of African Americans and other minority groups.
"All we're saying is let us also be reflected in history," said the bill's author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
Kuehl, who was the first openly lesbian lawmaker in the state Legislature, said that when she went to school in the 1940s, "there was only white men in history. But I knew who Betsy Ross, Betty Crocker and Betty Boop were."
The hot-button issue has garnered national attention because California represents a major chunk of the nation's textbook market.
Kuehl's bill was sent to the Assembly by the 40-member Senate on a 22-15 vote. Sen. Dean Florez of Shafter (Kern County) was the only Democrat who voted no. Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden (San Joaquin County), was present but did not vote.
Given the heavy Democratic majority in the Assembly, the bill has a good chance of being sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has yet to take a position on the measure.
Debate over the measure -- as in its previous committee hearings -- was sometimes emotional, occasionally stormy.
Republican lawmakers said the bill goes beyond simply eliminating a perceived bias against gays. They said the bill promotes being gay.
"If you're a black American, you can't help it. You are born that way," said Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside (San Diego County). "There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence that homosexuality is biological in origin. That is a myth. It is behavioral."
Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine said school districts don't like "having something dictated from this Capitol" and could elect to offer instruction on the contributions of gays on their own.
In support of the measure, Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, recounted a conversation with her 17-year-old son, Jackson, about Oscar Wilde, the 19th century Irish writer.
"Oscar Wilde was gay. Oscar Wilde was put in prison and forced into labor for two years because he was gay. Subsequently, he went mad," Speier said her son told her. Had he not been imprisoned, her son said, "he could have been as great as Shakespeare."
Invoking Thomas Jefferson
Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey (Los Angeles County), attempted to rebut an argument made by groups opposed to expanding gay rights that it doesn't matter whom someone slept with in history.
Bowen cited the reams written about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves. "That's a fairly significant section of any Jeffersonian library," Bowen said.
She also cited the Starr report detailing the relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Schwarzenegger supports domestic partnerships but vetoed a bill last year allowing same-sex marriages. Seeking re-election in November, he is less likely to sign Kuehl's bill.
Even if he does, changes to history textbooks won't happen soon.
California adopts new standards for kindergarten through eighth grade in the four core subject matters -- history, math, science and English -- every six years.
The state just completed history and is revising science standards this year. English is slated for review in 2008.
E-mail Greg Lucas at email@example.com.
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Senate OKs gay-studies bill
The measure would change social science textbooks.
By Judy Lin -- Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, May 12, 2006
Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee
Future social science textbooks used in California would include the contributions of gays under legislation approved Thursday in the state Senate.
The bill, SB 1437, passed on a 22-15 vote and will now go to the Assembly.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, who wrote the bill, said it will help promote self-esteem among gay students, who currently suffer high rates of suicide and drug abuse.
The measure requires schools to adopt age-appropriate study of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It also recasts current law prohibiting school activity that reflects adversely on people because of their sex, color, gender, religion, disability, nationality and ethnicity to include "sexual orientation."
Thursday's vote broke down mainly along party lines, with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposed. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, voted against the bill and Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, and Mike Machado, D-Linden, abstained.
The bill has drawn criticism from conservative religious groups opposed to such teaching in the classroom.
Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, called the bill dangerous, saying it confuses people who make a lifestyle choice with civil protection against racial discrimination.
"There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence to suggest that homosexuality is biological in origin," Morrow said.
Sen. Richard Alarcón, D-Sun Valley, said the bill allows the state to teach tolerance to its youth.
"Let's give the next generation a chance to do better than we did," he said.
Kuehl, who is recognized as the Legislature's first openly gay member, said she didn't choose a sexual orientation, which cost her an acting career. While attending school in the 1940s, she was exposed to the achievements of only white men.
"Growing up, all I knew about was Betsy Ross, Betty Crocker or Betty Boop. Since my name wasn't Betty, I thought I was toast," Kuehl said.
Calif. Senate OKs gay curriculum bill
Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network
Friday, May 12, 2006 / 11:09 AM
SUMMARY: The state Senate approves a requirement that California public schools teach the contributions of gay men and lesbians to history.
The California Senate approved a bill Thursday to include the contributions of gay men and lesbians in social-science curricula in public schools.
The 22-15 vote broke down mainly along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, authored the bill to get schools to adopt age-appropriate study of LGBT accomplishments.
"The invisibility of LGBT people in history materials in schools exacerbates already hostile school climates in which homophobic bullying, harassment and violence are rampant. Studies show that a bias-free and LGBT-inclusive curriculum fosters tolerance, resulting in greater feelings of student safety and less bullying of students who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," Kuehl said in a written statement.
"Today's vote brings us one step closer to our goal of safe schools for all children, and I am very grateful that so many of my colleagues in the California Senate saw the pressing need for this bill," the lesbian senator added.
"All students deserve to learn history from a fair and balanced perspective," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California. The bill "permits teachers to use their discretion and develop age-appropriate materials within the social-science curriculum," Kors noted.
In the last school year, 64 percent of LGBT students reported instances of anti-gay verbal harassment, and an alarming 36 percent reported physical harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the 2005 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Los Angeles, said the new curriculum would allow the state to teach tolerance. "Let's give the next generation a chance to do better than we did," he told the Sacramento Bee.
But Sen. Bill Morrow, R-San Juan Capistrano, called the bill dangerous. "There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence to suggest that homosexuality is biological in origin," he told the Bee.
Even though California's lower house approved a same-sex marriage bill this year -- only to be slapped down by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Seth Kilbourn, political director for Equality California, believes the curriculum bill now faces a tough fight.
"Well, I think we have our work cut out for us in the Assembly," Kilbourn said. "But with enough grass-roots organizing I think we have a chance."
California Debates Adding Gay History to Textbooks
Bill Would Require Books to Include Contributions of Homosexuals
By BRIAN ROONEY
May 12, 2006 — - California is considering a change to the way it teaches history.
The state already requires mentions of the historical roles of women, African-Americans and Asians.
Today the Democratic-controlled state Senate approved a bill that would require social science textbooks to note the contributions homosexuals have made to history. It's apparently the first attempt to pass a law of this kind in the country, and of course it has sparked a furor.
The law is sponsored by one of six openly gay members of the California legislature.
"All we are saying is let us also be reflected in history accurately," Democratic state Senate member Sheila Kuehl said.
The bill would add the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the "total development of California and the United States," she said.
Kuehl became a familiar face in the country 45 years ago on the popular television show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." She says children should be taught homosexuals are part of life and history.
"You could study James Baldwin's novels and they say James Baldwin was an African-American writer, but they could say he was an African-American gay writer," Kuehl said.
Positive Message or Assault on Free Speech?
The president of a pro-family organization who watched from the state Senate gallery when the bill passed today called this a war on families and children.
"The politicians have forced sexual indoctrination upon kids as young as kindergarten," Campaign for Children and Families president Randy Thomasson said.
Proponents say the bill, which states the material should be age-appropriate, sends an important message to gay children.
"When students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, they feel like they belong at school. They stay at school, and they get an education," said Kevin Jennings of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.
As one of the largest buyers of schoolbooks, California could influence the content of textbooks in other states, and that worries some conservative organizations.
"This is an assault on the free speech and freedom of religious expression of people who don't approve of homosexual behavior," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.
But before any books will be edited, this gay history bill has to pass the California House and be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has already vetoed a bill to legalize gay marriage.