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Mandated gay education closer in California

Published: Wednesday, July 6 2011 2:28 p.m. MDT

Proponents of Proposition 8 warned back in 2008 that if the proposition didn't pass it would only be a matter of time before gay marriage would be taught in California's classrooms.

They were wrong.

Prop 8 — which defined marriage as between a woman and a man — did pass, but it didn't prevent a push to mandate schools to teach more about gay lifestyles and history.

The San Francisco Examiner reported that the "Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act" introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, passed the California's state Assembly on Tuesday and heads now to Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto. If approved, it will become law in January. The bill, according to the Examiner, "would require schools to teach at all grade levels the historical contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."

The pro-Prop 8 campaign produced several commercials in 2008 warning Californians that "it has everything to do with schools" and gay marriage would soon be taught to young children. One prominent commercial by the National Organization for Marriage described a "gathering storm." The opposition countered in their own commercials that these were "lies to scare you."

The Lavender Newswire website, before Prop 8 passed, posted several reasons why warnings about changing school curriculum was a "lie." The post concluded with this argument: "The radical religionists really hate the fact that we're legally protected from hatred here in California, just like they are. They also hate the fact that California prohibits forced religious instruction on public school students — while claiming that California is forcing pro-gay 'instruction' on those same students, which it doesn't."

But, according to the Examiner, San Francisco Unified School District has offered curriculum since 1992 that is similar to what Leno's act proposes. "It's no different," Leno told the Examiner, "than instructing students about the historical role of an African-American man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., fighting for civil rights and being assassinated for his efforts than teaching students about a gay American man by the name of Harvey Milk fighting for every man's civil rights and being assassinated for his efforts."

A poll by conservative news website World Net Daily, however, may indicate that the majority of Americans disagree. When asked the question "Do you believe elementary school children should be taught that homosexuality is a normal alternative lifestyle?" 65 percent said no. To the question, "Is it appropriate to expose elementary school students to 'gay pride' and 'Gay History Month' lessons that celebrate the lives of homosexual activists like Harvey Milk?" 67.6 percent answered no.

The New York Times summarized criticism of Leno's FAIR Education Act back in April: "the bill has drawn vociferous criticism from opponents who argue that when and how to talk about same-sex relationships should be left to parents." Advocates for the bill argued that it would help reduce bullying and suicides by students who were taunted for being gay.

The Family Research Council countered that the act "would only lead to more bullying of those who disagree." The council also pointed out that the decision will go beyond California's borders because the state is one of the nation's largest producers of textbooks.

A similar bill was approved by the California legislature in 2006, according to the New York Times, but was vetoed by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most observers believe Gov. Brown will sign the current bill.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

TWITTER: degroote

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