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Veto promised for textbook legislation
Early statement on bill out of character for Schwarzenegger
- Greg Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Friday, May 26, 2006
Sacramento -- If it reaches his desk, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto legislation to require public school instructional materials to contain discussions about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, a spokesman said Thursday.
The statement from the governor, who rarely takes positions on bills until they pass the Legislature, dooms the measure which also prohibits teaching or textbooks that reflect adversely on people because of their sexual orientation or identity.
"The issue for the governor is he is not supportive of the Legislature micromanaging curriculum," said Adam Mendelsohn, the GOP governor's communications director.
"California has an 18-member standards board that is a national model for looking at curriculum," Mendelsohn said. "The governor just believes it's not the Legislature's job to determine curriculum."
Backers of the bill vowed to continue pushing it through the Legislature. The measure cleared the 40-member Senate two weeks ago on a 22-15 vote after a sometimes emotional debate.
"We're going to keep going. The governor is clearly doing pre-primary electioneering, and I think it's kind of cowardly to do it on the backs of gay and lesbian kids," said the bill's author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
Opponents of the bill argued that it promoted homosexuality and was unnecessary because local school districts can voluntarily offer instruction about gays.
"We're very pleased that Schwarzenegger is listening to the concerns of parents," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a group that opposes expanding gay rights.
"Schools should be about academics, not promoting alternative sexual lifestyles to impressionable children," Thomasson said in a statement Thursday.
Supporters said textbooks are silent about the contributions of gays or lesbians, just as they were once silent about those of other minority groups.
"The governor must not understand what this bill does and what it does not do. This is a simple nondiscrimination bill," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, the sponsor of the bill.
"We will request a meeting with the governor and ask him to reconsider his position and work with us to ensure inclusive and bias-free curriculum," Kors said in a statement.
For the GOP governor's re-election campaign, announcing he will veto the bill shores up his Republican base. Announcing early also helps him in the general election.
"If he wants crossover Democrats in the fall, his action on this bill will be out of their memory loop by then. And to win he certainly needs crossover Democrats in the fall," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Cal State Sacramento.
In September, Schwarzenegger waited until the day after the Legislature passed a bill to allow same-sex marriage to say he would veto it.
However, while the bill was pending, the governor routinely said he believed the issue should be decided either by a vote of the people or a court decision.
Schwarzenegger has said he supports the state's domestic-partnership laws.
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Gay school bill in trouble
Spokesman says the governor plans to veto curriculum measure, but Kuehl insists it can still pass.
By Andy Furillo and Judy Lin -- Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, May 25, 2006
Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto a bill passed by the Senate and pending in the Assembly to revise California's school curriculum to include the contributions of gays and lesbians to the state and nation, a gubernatorial spokesman said Wednesday.
"The governor believes that school curriculum should include all important historical figures, regardless of orientation," said Schwarzenegger's director of communications, Adam Mendelsohn. "However, he does not support the Legislature micromanaging curriculum."
Wednesday's announcement signaled a death blow to the efforts of state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the openly lesbian author of the measure, to obtain recognition for the contributions of gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people to the social and historical landscape.
Kuehl's bill had passed the Senate on a 22-15 vote on May 11 and was awaiting hearings in the Assembly. She expressed disbelief that Schwarzenegger, who traditionally has withheld comment on legislation until it passes the Legislature and reaches his desk, has broken with his own precedent and made up his mind on a bill that still hadn't been vetted by one house of the Legislature.
"He hasn't made up his mind, I don't care what some underling might have said," Kuehl said.
Kuehl said she hasn't spoken to the Republican governor about the bill yet and that she didn't plan on trying to initiate a conversation with him until it had set sail in the Assembly. She said she intends to approach him on the subject.
"I expect it to go before the (Assembly) Education Committee, perhaps then the Appropriations Committee," Kuehl said. "When it gets to the floor, I expect to talk to the governor, and I expect to get it through. For them to take a position on it, I think is precipitous. There's nothing controversial about it. The right wing has drummed up a lot of old fears. Once people understand what it really does, the response is usually OK."
Schwarzenegger will come around to supporting the bill, Kuehl said, once he "understands how small a change it is."
Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families and a longtime activist who has opposed gay rights legislation, welcomed Schwarzenegger's decision. But he said he wants more out of the governor.
"We're very pleased that Schwarzenegger is listening to the concerns of parents," Thomasson said. "Now the governor needs to pledge to veto the two remaining transsexual, bisexual, homosexual bills, AB 606 and AB 1056. Parents and grandparents are demanding it."
Assembly Bill 606 would ensure that school districts act to reduce harassment of students based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Assembly Bill 1056 would offer $25,000 grants to schools to "promote tolerance and intergroup relations," according to a bill analysis.
Seth Kilbourn, political director for Equality California, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and sponsored Senate Bill 1437, said he was surprised that the governor would indicate his opposition to the bill at such an early stage.
"That is disappointing," he said.
With June being Gay Pride Month, Kilbourn said he doesn't see the political benefit for the governor in shooting down the bill.
"This would not be the best time for him to be doing that if he wanted to appear more friendly," Kilbourn said. "He's passed more pieces of legislation benefiting the GLBT community -- except for gay marriage -- than any other governor."
Kilbourn called SB 1437 an important and necessary bill that would help promote tolerance in classrooms.
"We are not asking for anything new. It's part of the diversity as required by the state of California," Kilbourn said. "It has enormous impact on gay and lesbian students. When gay issues are talked about, gay students feel better about themselves. For non-gays, it's an opportunity to learn about an underrepresented group in society and provides a more positive perspective."
About the writer:
The Bee's Andy Furillo can be reached at (916) 321-1141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.