Moral Low Ground

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California Lawmakers Pass Bill Requiring Teaching of Gay History in Public Schools

California lawmakers have passed a historic bill that will require history textbooks used in public schools to include the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans to our national story.

The bill, SB 48, passed both the state Senate and Assembly. It now heads to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has 12 days to sign or veto the measure.

Supporters of the bill, including openly gay Democratic lawmakers Tom Ammiano (San Francisco) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (Los Angeles) say it will reduce bullying and right a wrong– the omission of the contributions of LGBT Americans from textbooks.

“I don’t want to be invisible in a textbook,” Ammiano said.

“We need to portray all people, regardless of their race, their color or their sexual orientation, in a positive way in our textbooks,” Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), a former teacher, added.

But not all California lawmakers were so supportive. Fully 25 Assembly members voted against SB 48, including Tim Donnelly (R- San Bernadino). “As a Christian, I am deeply offended,” he said. Donnelly argued that the bill promoted a “homosexual agenda” that many people do not support.

Moral Low Ground applauds the passage of SB 48. By Donnelly’s logic, black history shouldn’t be taught in schools because many people are racists. Homosexuals have existed from the beginning of our nation’s history and have made significant contributions to America’s greatness. Here is but a partial list of historical LGBT figures in U.S. history:

James Buchanan, most likely our first gay President.

James Buchanan (president), Eleanor Roosevelt (stateswoman), Walt Whitman (poet), Gertrude Stein (author), J. Edgar Hoover (FBI director), Alice B. Tolkas (author), Cole Porter (composer), Leonard Bernstein (composer), Ralph Waldo Emerson (author), Tennessee Williams (playwright), James Baldwin (author), Billie Jean King (athlete), Andy Warhol (artist), Herman Melville (author), Horatio Alger Jr. (author), Greg Louganis (athlete), Willa Cather (author), Amy Lowell (author), Bessie Smith (singer), Harvey Milk (politician), Margaret Fuller (educator), Langston Hughes (author), Martina Navratilova (athlete), Barney Frank (politician), Tom Dooley (missionary), Rock Hudson (actor), Janis Joplin (singer), Angela Davis (activist), James Dean (actor), Montgomery Clift (actor), Allen Ginsburg (poet), Aaron Copland (composer), …

… and the list goes on.

If Governor Brown signs this bill into law, it will have  repercussions for the entire nation. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California is the nation’s largest textbook buyer in the nation, and textbook publishers try to sell California-approved books to the rest of the country.

This puts California squarely at odds with Texas, another large buyer of textbooks. The über-conservative Texas Board of Education also wields enormous power in the world of textbook publishing; it recently won a major victory in approving a decidedly right-wing social studies curriculum that stressed the superiority of American capitalism, questioned the Founding Fathers’ advocacy of separation of church and state, and omitted or downplayed the contributions of progressive historical figures like Cesar Chavez in favor of relatively insignificant conservatives such as Newt Gingrich.

If signed into law, California’s SB 48 is sure to infuriate the Texas Board of Education and all those who would whitewash the role of LGBT people in making America the great country it is today. And in doing so, California’s lawmakers can be proud of themselves for doing the right thing.

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One Comment

  1. mike DoughertyJuly 7, 2011 at 6:55 pmReply

    In your list don’t forget talk show host Stephanie Miller. Gay or not-I have a thing for her.

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