New law will require positive treatment of LGBT issues in textbooks

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Academy award winning actor Sean Penn (left) looks on as California Sen. Mark Leno (right) speaks during a press conference announcing legislation to create a Harvey Milk Day in California on March 3, 2009 in San Francisco to recognize the efforts of the slain gay rights activist.

A new law that takes effect next month will require public schools to include the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in social science classes. Opponents are already gearing up to overturn it.

Democratic State Senator Mark Leno, who sponsored the law, said it will address a currently-missing chapter of civil rights history. He hopes it will promote better understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities—thereby curbing bullying in schools.

“The intent and the hope is certainly to promote better understanding," said Leno. "What is the bare bones minimum of a good public education? That we would teach our students how to get along with each other, so that when these students grow up to be adults we might live in a more peaceful society."

The measure will also require instruction on the contributions of people with disabilities as well as members of other cultural groups.

In addition, the state Board of Education and local districts will be prohibited from adopting textbooks or other materials that reflect negatively on people because of their sexual orientation.

When the measure was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, opponents attempted a referendum to overturn the law, but failed to get enough signatures to place it on the ballot. Brad Dacus with the Pacific Justice Institute said they’re now backing an alternative initiative.

“Hopefully we will be able to get those signatures so that parents of California in the end will have the final say as to whether the history classes of their children will be turned into pro-homosexual, bisexual, transsexual indoctrination times.”

Dacus is calling on church groups to back the initiative effort.

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