Michael Crawford

Conservatives Try to Overturn Safe Schools Law

Filed By Michael Crawford | November 04, 2007 1:11 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: California, education policy, gay rights, gay youth

Proving once again that the "hate the sin, not the sinner" adage is nothing more than empty rhetoric, conservative evangelicals have launched a drive to force a statewide referendum on a California law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A group of religious conservatives launched a referendum drive Friday morning to overturn legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in school activities and instruction.

The legislation, Senate Bill 777, was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month with little notice because the governor, at nearly the same time, vetoed the same-sex marriage bill.

Conservative groups say the bill would require far-reaching changes in school curriculum and activities. "This will mean either getting rid of mom and dad or adding a homosexual couple," in a textbook, said Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Family Impact.

The group has a tall order. It has to gather more than 400,000 signatures by January to put the bill before voters in June.

The sponsors of the legislation, Equality California, disagree about the impact of the new law. They argue that it will simply add more protections for gay and lesbian youth.

Why, you may ask, are these people spending so much time, energy and money to repeal protections that make schools safer for gay kids rather than focusing on expanding access to healthcare or ensuring that all kids get a quality education?

Surely it can't be because they are following Jesus' words about protecting the weak and the powerless.

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Was having a conversation with a stright friend about this the other day, and she agreed: it really does all come down to projection.

We all fear and hate most in others that which we don't like about ourselves... Clearly whatever bi/gay tendencies these homophobes have scare the crap out of them.

The guy in my high school who used the word 'faggot' the most has since turned out to be one hell of a fabulous drag queen.

Same story here.

So now the politico in me wonders...what does this referendum movement mean for the already complex marriage equality fight in CA? Not that marriage equality has to be the "be all, end all" issue, despite the fact that many of us recognize that it's our standard bearer these days.

My heart goes out to the organizers in CA, some of which are my friends. It's no easy feat to work in a state as large as CA, which, in fact, is more like a country.

I'm interested to see what happens next...

Thanks, Michael.

Having worked with the Long Beach Human Relations Commission to support this campaign (back when the bill was SB 1437), I think I might be able to explain the specifics of the bill.

First of all, the bill simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes to California's education code. What the fundies don't tell you is that the bill also added religious affiliation to the list.

Secondly, last year when the bill was SB 1437, it would have amended the textbook adoption process to require textbooks to have positive inclusion of LGBTQ people in relevant social science curricula. Since California is the largest textbook producer in the country, the impact of the bill would have swept far beyond California. This is why the fundies got their panties in a bunch.

State Senator Sheila Kuhl was very wise when she reintroduced this as SB 777. She removed the portion about textbook adoption from the bill so that the Governator wouldn't have an easy excuse to veto the bill.

In terms of how SB 777 connects to the fight for marriage equality in California, it was one of pro-LGBTQ bills out of 10 that passed the legislature that Schwarzenegger signed into law. Schwarzenegger will never pass marriage equality. However, there is strong support in both of the houses of the state legislature, as well as popular support. Equality California keeps reintroducing marriage legislation each term and it keeps passing. I think that if California gets a Democratic governor, marriage equality will be all but a done deal.

For more info, check out Equality California's website.