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.