Campaign to repeal Calif. LGBT-history law fails, battle not over

 Matt MahurinStop SB 48, one of the leading committees trying to repeal a new California law that, starting next year, will require schools to teach historical contributions made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered individuals and people with disabilities, has failed to repeal the law through a ballot referendum.

Wednesday, 90 days after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 48 in to law, was the last day to file 504,750 valid, signed petitions with the state. Stop SB 48 organizers announced their failure to gather enough signatures in an email to subscribers titled, "We Fought the Law and the Law Won," in which they also state plans to keep fighting LGBT-oriented legislation:

While we did not overturn this very bad law, we built a small army of dedicated volunteers that collected an incredible amount of signatures. There will be a next battle. Despite the overuse of the term "tolerance", there is little tolerance for those who do not endorse the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles. And there will be more laws passed that advocate for these and attempt to silence any opposition.

SB 48 opponents will have other opportunities to overturn the law, not through a repeal referendum, but through either a ballot initiative or a constitutional amendment -- options which demand even more signatures and, consequently, more money than repealing the law by referendum. Karen England, president of the Capitol Resource Institute and leader of the Stop SB 48 campaign (the two entities share an address), could not be immediately reached for comment.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which has worked with Stop SB 48 to overturn the education law, told The American Independent the effort to overturn SB 48 will continue. Dacus admitted a major obstacle to gathering signatures was lack of money and resources, but he said he was impressed with how far the group got.

"No matter how it turns out, one thing is clear," Dacus said early Wednesday, when it was unknown whether Stop SB 48 qualified for the referendum. "A broad diversity of parents up and down the state of California actually posed a viable threat to repeal legislation without one dollar paid for signature-gatherers."

He credited a Los Angeles Times editorial from April for a large part of the public opposition to SB 48. The editorial stated its opposition to the bill based on the belief that educators, not politicians, should write textbooks.

In June, the LA Times published another article on SB 48, claiming groups against the legislation for ideological reasons, such as Catholics for the Common Good, were misrepresenting the paper's position:

Although the editorial board also opposes the bill, it's not because these additions would shatter a child's image of marriage. It's because the board doesn't want to see education politicized. In other words: Politicians shouldn't be in the business of writing textbooks.

Dacus said he opposes SB 48 because it amounted to indoctrination of California's children and because it is based on subjection, politics and speculation.

"This legislation requires subjective speculation of who in history [was] engaged in homosexual conduct. It will necessitate speculation of who in history was allegedly homosexual or transgender or not," he said, claiming that a high school in Los Angeles has attempted to "pigeonhole" Abraham Lincoln as a gay man.

In part, the law states:

This bill would update references to certain categories of persons and additionally would require instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.

Dacus told TAI the new law forces schools to teach students "only positive things" about LGBT history, but, as written, the legislation prohibits "materials that reflect adversely upon persons because of their race, creed or sexual orientation."

Asked about the provision of the law that requires inclusions of historical contributions from persons with disabilities, Dacus said: "No one based upon their disability, gender, race or orientation shall ever be excluded [from] history because of those factors."

Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, a multi-issue advocacy group based in Los Angeles, told TAI he was not surprised that Stop SB 48 failed in its first repeal attempt, and he compared the groups in charge to "rightwing fringe groups equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church."

"The entirety of this campaign has been about lies and fear," Jacobs said.

He said Courage Campaign enlisted 15,000 people to monitor Stop SB 48 signature solicitors throughout the state. The group has filed a complaint against Stop SB 48 with the state attorney general after one monitor discovered a campaigner trying to attract signatures by claiming the petition was to prevent child molestation.

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Advocacy group Equality California has also filed a complaint with the state's ethics board in protest of Stop SB 48's campaign practices.

"We're going to remain vigilant," Jacobs said. "If [SB 48 opponents] decide to try again, we will be there."