Karen Ocamb

What's Really Going on with House Republicans & Why It Matters to LGBT People

Filed By Karen Ocamb | December 21, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: economic crisis, economic policy, House Republicans, payroll tax cut, tax, working poor

Republican House Speaker John Boehner

Tuesday night Rachel Maddow produced a very interesting - and I think dead on - report about what she thinks is the real Republican strategy behind what sometimes appears to be off-the-wall attacks that eschew compromise. Consider this: is House Speaker John Boehner really willing to allow for a tax increase because the House wants a one year extension of the payroll tax cut instead of the bipartisan two-month compromise worked out by the Senate – in order to help the working poor? Really?

Maddow suggests that Republicans are in fact using these piranha nibbles to get at the bigger issues they want to dismantle - Social Security, Medicare - essentially the FDR New Deal and residual laws from the 1960s counter-culture.

As I watched the piece (see below), it occurred to me that Karen England of the Capitol Resource Institute - leading a Religious Right coalition to repeal the California FAIR Education Act through a proposed 2012 ballot initiative - is using a similar tact. This is not surprising since she has been a right wing Republican operative working with people such as Tom McClintock and the antigay, ultra-conservative grassroots California Republican Assembly.

The new proposed initiative - for which she expects to get title and summary from the Attorney General's office soon - basically argues that NO historical figure should be taught in public school simply because they are part of a special group. The only thing that matters is merit - and besides, no such lessons should be mandated, as the Fair Act requires. On a conference call to recruit and train Religious Right supporters for their expected signature-gathering campaign in mid-January, England noted that even Log Cabin Republicans agree with that! Indeed, she said that Harvey Milk should be taught because he did more things that simply being gay.

This is the same kind of insidious logic that might make a person agree with the House Republicans that yes, a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut is better than a two-month extension. In this case, one might agree that merit should be the primary reason an historical figure is discussed in a public social science class. The problem, of course, is who decides what constitutes merit and should that be the only criteria? Would Ruby Bridges count, for instance? She was the little black girl whose walk to school in 1964 was captured by famed American painter Norman Rockwell - which now hangs in the White House.That little girl's courage in the face of outrageous racism inspired not only African American kids - but me as well.

So what is the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, Respectful) Education Act? It is described as "a common sense law that requires schools to integrate factual information about social movements, current events and history of people of color, people with disabilities and LGBT people into existing social studies lessons. It also prevents schools from adopting instructional materials that discriminate.’

This is from the fact sheet posted on the California Department of Education website:

The bill added language to Education Code Section 51204.5, which proscribes the inclusion of the contributions of various groups in the history of California and the United States. This section already included men and women and numerous ethnic groups; the expanded language now includes (additions bolded):

"…a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society."

When Gov. Brown signed the bill SB 48 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), he added this signing statement:

"History should be honest. This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books. It represents an important step forward for our state, and I thank Senator Leno for his hard work on this historic legislation."

Leno said:

"Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them. I am pleased Governor Brown signed the FAIR Education Act and I thank him for recognizing that the LGBT community, its accomplishments and its ongoing efforts for first-class citizenship are important components of California's history.....

Research indicates that students who learn about LGBT people find their school environments more accepting of LGBT youth. Students are also more likely to report that their LGBT peers are treated fairly at school - and that other types of peer-to-peer disrespect also declines - when LGBT people and issues are included in instructional materials."

Here's the initiative England proposes for the 2012 ballot:

And here's who's backing her up, with an initial response from Equality California:

Here’s Rachel Maddow dissection of the Republican's plan:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(Crossposted at LGBT POV)


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