California Senate Passes Bill Requiring Students Learn Gay History

Over the weekend, Steve posted about the bill making its way through the California legislature that would require schools teach gay history. The California Senate has advanced that bill, the AP reports:

LenoIf the bill is adopted by the state Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California would become the first state to require the teaching of gay history.

Supporters say the move is needed to counter anti-gay stereotypes and beliefs that make children in those groups vulnerable to bullying and suicide. Opponents counter that such instruction would further burden an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, passed on a 23-14 party line vote. It also would add disabled people to the curriculum. The bill gives school districts flexibility in deciding what to include in the lessons and at what grades students would receive them.

But starting in the 2013-14 school year, it would prohibit districts and the California Board of Education from using textbooks or other instructional materials that reflect adversely on gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Wrote Steve:

Naturally, wingnuts opposed to the blll have branded it "the worst school sexual indoctrination ever" and "sexual brainwashing." They've already begun an anti-SB 48 campaign wherein they attempt to "scare" fellow bigots into thinking the bill "normalizes homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism." 


  1. Rin says

    I think history should be taught in school. When we call it “black history”, “women’s history”, or “gay history” we are subconsciously sending a message that these are segregated groups and not part of the American whole. They could have just added it into the curriculum without the fanfare because it is plain and simple American history.

  2. says

    I agree with Rin. History is history.

    However, it is ridiculous to protest the teaching of gay history on the basis that it could sexually brainwash our kids. By that logic, we’d have to stop teaching about anything negative that has ever happened in our country’s existence, like slavery, World Wars and the Nazis, the Republican party. . .

  3. Gregv says

    That makes sense, Rin. But I think the problem develops when some history has been purposely omitted. I don’t think a teacher has to add in a unit about “women’s history” or “gay history” or “black history” if such aspects are already included in the texts. A lot of texts right now try to satisfy bigoted policy in places like Texas by taking measures to actually exclude non-heterosexual people or to talk about them in a way that erases important points about them.

  4. RecoredSlave says

    I have to dispute your comment that gay history is “plain and simple American history.”. In fact that comment is offensive. Gay history is international, and belongs to all nations and nationalities, as there are gay people beyond your boarders who have made great strides forward for rights and freedoms of our community. In fact, there are other nations that have done far more for gay rights then the US has been able to accomplish. (look north on your map to the big gray area simply marked as Canada) I hope this wonderful new curriculum is inclusive of OUR history beyond geo-political boundaries.

    Furthermore, having this curriculum recognised is very important. It further pushes the gay rights movement forward, out, and into the open. Mashing our stories into one big American melting pot would be sad and a total waste.

  5. Justin Werner says

    This is bound to have a huge backlash. I’m concerned that pushing it at this time is ill-advised. To be fair, though, I am over-cautious, and there is *never* a good time to try anything new. You just have to do it. Still, I find myself being uncomfortable – which may not be a bad thing.

  6. says

    I agree mostly with Rin. I think the one really significant thing about making this move so publicly is how it effects textbook manufacturers. An overwhelming majority of American textbooks, history or otherwise, are tailor made for the Texas school system because the state buys all of its books in bulk, for all of its schools. Because it’s too costly to make individual books for each and every state, the rest of the country is usually subject to the education policies of a single state’s approved topics. California is equal to Texas in this regard, with a large amount of textbooks created especially for the state’s system. If (really, when) California starts teaching gay history, it can only have a positive effect within the state and beyond. Rin’s insistence that gay history should just be seen as “American history” isn’t wrong but highlighting it doesn’t hurt anyone. The fact that people remember each February that it’s Black History month, long after going through K-12 education, doesn’t demean or insult the study of Black History- it draws attention to it and inserts it within the larger narrative in a productively positive way.

    As a(n aspiring) historian, I’ve been taught to look for the silences in history- the people, places and things left out of the historiography. While gay history has been well developed over the last few decades, bringing it into schools and sparking interest in learning more can only help create future historians who can continue to expose and explore the silences throughout our history and everyone else’s history, too.

  7. Frederick says

    As a former CA public school teacher, I think it’s great that gay history will likely become a part of the curriculum. Thank you Mark Leno, for all your hard work sponsoring & promoting the Fair Education Act!

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