Senate approves bill to include sexual orientation in social science textbooks
SACRAMENTO (AP) – California children would read about homosexuals’ contributions to history under a bill approved Thursday by state senators who often drew on their own childhood experiences in supporting the measure.
The bill would require California’s social science textbooks to include the contributions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people to the state and nation’s history. California is the nation’s largest buyer of textbooks, with annual spending topping $400 million.
The measure passed 22-15, with no Republican votes. It heads to the Assembly, where opponents vowed another fight.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the state’s first openly gay legislator, also would bar textbooks and other instructional material that portrayed gays in a negative light.
Growing up, “there was nobody in the history books except white men” and Betsy Ross, Betty Crocker and Betty Boop, said Kuehl. “All we’re saying is, let us also be reflected in history.”
Two of three gay students are verbally harassed and one of six is physically harassed, said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which sponsored the legislation. “The invisibility that currently exists (in textbooks) contributes to that,” he added.
Other women senators drew parallels to the lack of female or minority role models they saw in history books as children.
Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, disputed the comparison.
“If you are a black American, you can’t help it, you were born that way,” he said. “There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence that suggests that homosexuality is biological in origin….. It is behavioral; it is not racial.”
Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, disagreed.
“This is the way … God made people,” said Alarcon. “Let’s stop trying to hide this reality.”
Republicans oppose diverting money from basic education or singling out any minority unless a historical figure’s race or ethnicity is clearly relevant, said Senate GOP Leader Dick Ackerman of Fullerton.
Republicans, like many newspaper editorial boards, “don’t think this is an appropriate role for the Legislature to determine how the history books should be written,” he said.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill.
Karen England, executive director of the Sacramento-based Capitol Resource Institute, called the measure “the most outrageous bill in the California Legislature this year,” suggesting it could force schools to end dress codes and gender-specific sports teams as well.
The bill requires that social science textbooks be updated with “age appropriate” language outlining the contributions of gays when schools replace current texts. Social science texts will next be revised in 2012.
State law already bars textbooks portraying people negatively because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry. It also requires that the books include the contributions from racial, ethnic and cultural minorities.
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