SACRAMENTO -- Anti-gay groups upset about the FAIR Education Act (SB 48) have now filed five initiatives in a blatant attempt to remove all references to LGBT people in school textbooks in California.
All five initiatives are clearly discriminatory in nature because they target LGBT people for exclusion in textbooks. Some of the initiatives also target people with disabilities and Pacific Islanders, and change racial identities, for example, from Mexican Americans to Mexicans.
The FAIR Education Act, authored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, the state law requires schools to integrate age-appropriate and factual information about historical roles of LGBT people, people with disabilities and people of color into existing social science instruction.
“What our opponents have shown us is that they will seize any opportunity, however small, to launch large-scale attacks on LGBT people. The FAIR Education Act was created from a basic concept: that California schools should teach accurate history that is inclusive of the roles of all people," said Clarissa Filgioun, board chairman of Equality California.
“But if anti-equality advocates have their way, California schools will instead become a breeding ground for extremism. Schools will no longer be prohibited from adopting materials that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Parents will be able to pull their kids from social studies courses that include any references to LGBT people. Who 'counts' as a minority for the purpose of teaching history will be redefined. And, schools will no longer be required to include or acknowledge the role of LGBT people in the history of California or our nation. The effect on schools will be chilling and the impact on students — especially LGBT youth — could be devastating," she said.
“We can't — and we won't — let anti-LGBT extremism get a foothold in our schools. We're prepared to do everything in our power to prevent these measures from reaching the ballot and to defeat these measures at the ballot if we must,” Filgioun said.
The five initiatives and the people and organizations behind them
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News initially broke the story on Nov. 17 about the move by Richard Rios, leader of the Christian Coalition of California and a Republican Party activist from Orange County, to file two initiatives that would prevent any reference to LGBT Americans in textbooks.
These two anti-gay groups apparently are not directly affiliated with the Stop SB 48 group that failed in October to qualify a voter initiative to repeal the state law.
Rios filed a third initiative on Nov. 21, representing the Committee to Repeal SB48. This initiative follows the same line of thinking on the FAIR Education Act, proclaiming that “it is the parent or guardian who should ultimately guide their child in moral and faith beliefs.”
This third filing by Rios strikes out the words “Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic groups” and replaces them with these words: “black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Islander people, and other ethnic groups.” It also strikes out references to sexual orientation.
The fourth filing was made on Nov. 22 by Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition. Sheldon is a Far Right pastor out of touch with his Presbyterian roots, and the obscenely funded Traditional Values Coalition is listed as a hate group by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in America. Sheldon and his hate group were among the supporters of Yes on 8, which took away marriage equality in California.
Sheldon’s initiative is called “The Bipartisan Initiative To Restore Local School Board Control Act.” This initiative attacks the FAIR Education Act by claiming that California’s Legislature took away local control of school boards by passing legislation that this group opposes. As with the other initiatives, this one also strikes out any reference to LGBT people and sexual orientation, plus Pacific Islanders and people with disabilities.
The fifth initiative, called Children Learning Accurate Social Science (CLASS) Act, was filed Dec. 6 by a coalition that includes Stop SB48, the same group that failed to qualify an initiative in October. The coalition includes the Capitol Resource Family Impact and the Pacific Justice Institute Center for Public Policy, who share the same office space in Sacramento and are always in bed together to fight against equality. Other sponsors include Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, who was part of the earlier gay-bashing campaign by Stop SB48. Hibbs was also one of the supporters of Yes on 8, which overturned marriage equality in California.
Stop SB48 supporters failed to collect 504,760 valid signatures in their previous effort. Karen England, from Capitol Resource, told her supporters that she expected a different result this time.
"We feel very positive about our ability to gain the necessary signatures," England wrote in a fundraising email. "To qualify a referendum in California, one has to get all of the signatures in 90 days. We will have almost two additional months to gain the initiative signatures."
England said the petition drive will likely begin after the first of the year.
It is interesting to note that England’s email misrepresents the Los Angeles Times, claiming that the newspaper condemned the new law. But that is among a boatload of tactics that Far Right uses to demonize the LGBT community or give the false impression that legitimate news organizations side with them. Supporters of the FAIR Education Act are expecting more outrageous accusations to be made should the initiatives get approval to proceed to petition signing.