Arnie terminates gay experiences from California school textbooks

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Legislation that would have required California’s public school curriculum to include the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has been watered down to a simple prohibition of teaching or textbooks that negatively portray persons based on their sexual orientation.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed in May to veto the bill if it reached his desk. Critics said his decision was spawned by re-election concerns about core conservative Republican voters.

“All that’s left in the bill now is adding sexual orientation to a long-standing law that prohibits the adoption of official teaching materials or the conducting of school activities that reflect adversely on people on the basis of race, religion, gender and so on,” the bill’s author, Democrat state senator Sheila Kuehl, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

“We took out the section of the bill the governor said would ‘micromanage’ curriculum because I would like to get his signature on something so we can help students this year,” added Kuehl, the first openly lesbian member of the Legislature.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson on Monday declined to comment on the amendments, but she did reiterate concerns about the bill.

“The governor will not sign a bill that micromanages curriculum that is better left with the state board of education,” she told The San Jose Mercury News.

Criticism of the measure from groups opposing expansion of gay rights was intense. Opponents argued including the contributions of gays and lesbian in textbooks would promote homosexuality.

Supporters countered that textbooks should include the contributions of gays and lesbians just as they are required to contain those of other minority groups.

The bill now would prohibit teachers and textbooks to “reflect adversely” on persons based on sexual orientation. For more than 30 years, textbooks and teachers have been prohibited from negative portrayals of persons based on various characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, nationality or religion.

“While this is not everything we believe needs to be done to address the problem it is still a very important affirmative step to protect kids,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the bill’s chief backer.

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