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Kuehl Removes Key Portion of Bill on Gays in Textbooks
Sen. Sheila Kuehl drops rule that schoolbooks include history and achievements in favor of an anti-bias provision. Governor vows a veto.
By Jordan Rau and Nancy Vogel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 8, 2006
SACRAMENTO — Facing a certain veto, state lawmakers have abandoned their effort to require that textbooks in California schools detail the history and achievements of gays and lesbians in America.
Supporters removed that provision of the gay rights bill, which passed the California Senate in May, so that the measure only bars teaching anything that "reflects adversely" on people because of their sexual orientation. Schools would also be prohibited from sponsoring any activities that sanction such a bias.
The revised law is certain to win full approval by the Democratic-led Legislature. If the bill is signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would add that protection to California's existing anti-discrimination law, which prohibits instructional materials and teachers from pedagogy that is negative about race, ethnicity, disability, nationality or religion.
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the author of SB 1437, said she made the change even though it removed 90% of the import of the measure, which would have been the first in the country to mandate the teaching of homosexuals' contributions. The bill had drawn strong support from gay activists but ridicule from social conservatives and others who objected to the notion of debating historical figures' sexual orientations in textbooks.
"I did this because I'm hoping this is small enough and important enough at the same time that the governor can sign it even in an election year," Kuehl said Monday.
But Schwarzenegger's office, which had taken the rare step of announcing his intention to veto the bill, provided no encouraging signal that he would change his mind.
"The governor will not sign a bill that micromanages curriculum that is better left to the state Board of Education," Schwarzenegger press secretary Margita Thompson said.
The Campaign for Children and Families, a conservative group, condemned the altered measure, saying that it would still prohibit teachers from telling students that there is such thing as "the natural family" and that bisexual parents are abnormal.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger said he would veto SB 1437," said Randy Thomasson, the Sacramento-based group's president. "Fathers and mothers expect Arnold not to let them down."
In a preliminary vote Monday in the Assembly, 20 Republicans supported the changes, which passed 65 to 2, with 13 legislators abstaining. A spokesman for the GOP caucus said the members would not support the bill when it comes up for a final vote, but it still has more than enough Democratic votes to pass.
Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group, said he was disappointed with the changes, but the revised bill would make it possible to catalog and investigate complaints about teachers' derogatory statements.
"We'll move forward one piece at a time," he said.
He said his group had decided to endorse Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, because Schwarzenegger, though "the best Republican governor" on gay rights issues, "puts politics above principle" and has vetoed a number of priorities, including legalized gay marriage.
The group had endorsed state Controller Steve Westly over Angelides in the Democratic primary.
Bill expanding gay rights in public school curriculum watered down
Measure is limited to ban negativity on sexual orientation
- Greg Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
(08-08) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- In a bid for a gubernatorial signature, legislation that would have required public school instructional materials to include the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people was scaled back Monday to simply prohibit teaching or textbooks that negatively portray persons based on their sexual orientation.
In May, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the "Legislature should not micromanage curriculum" and vowed to veto the bill if it reached his desk. Critics said his decision was spawned by re-election jitters over angering conservative Republican voters.
"All that's left in the bill now is adding sexual orientation to a long-standing law that prohibits the adoption of official teaching materials or the conducting of school activities that reflect adversely on people on the basis of race, religion, gender and so on," said the bill's author Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
"We took out the section of the bill the governor said would 'micromanage' curriculum because I would like to get his signature on something so we can help students this year," said Kuehl, the first openly lesbian member of the Legislature.
The textbook measure, SB1437, generated intense debate among lawmakers as it moved through the Senate. It is awaiting action in the Assembly where the amendments to weaken the bill were approved Monday.
Criticism of the measure from groups opposing expansion of gay rights was intense. Opponents argued including the contributions of gays and lesbian in textbooks would promote homosexuality.
Supporters countered that textbooks should include the contributions of gays and lesbians just as they are required to contain those of other minority groups.
The bill now would prohibit teachers and textbooks to "reflect adversely" on persons based on sexual orientation. For more than 30 years, textbooks and teachers have been prohibited from negative portrayals of persons based on various characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, nationality or religion.
"While this is not everything we believe needs to be done to address the problem it is still a very important affirmative step to protect kids," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the bill's chief backer.
Kuehl's elimination of the mandate on including the contributions of gays and lesbians in textbooks did not win over opponents of her bill.
"(This bill) still requires all teachers, all textbooks and all instructional materials to positively portray cross-dressing, sex change operations, bisexuality and homosexuality," said Randy Thomason, president of Campaign for Children and Families.
It's also not clear if the changes will win over the governor.
But Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson cautioned that "the governor will not sign a bill that micromanages curriculum. That is better left with the State Board of Education."
E-mail Greg Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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