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'Stop SB 48' Doesn't Want California Students to Know About Cole Porter?

​​​​In the history of the world, gays and lesbians have always made important contributions to many different societies. One such person is Cole Porter, the brilliant composer and songwriter.

"Few people realize how architecturally excellent his music is," said Richard Rodgers, another major composer, about Porter. "There's a foundation, a structure, and an embellishment. Then you add the emotion he's put in and the result is Cole Porter."

In California, a group called "Stop SB 48" wants to repeal a state law that allows students to learn about Porter and other important people in history who were gay.

Porter, who was born in Indiana in 1891, wrote songs for stage and screen, including the highly-acclaimed musical comedy Anything Goes, which won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival and features classics "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," and "All Through the Night."

Other songs of his include "I've Got You Under My Skin," "In the Still of the Night," "Friendship," "Don't Fence Me In," and many others.

Porter, admirers often say, transformed American songwriting with his clever lyrics and sophisticated, but accessible melodies.

"With his late-19th-century harmonies and letter-perfect rhymes, which were even more refined than those of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Porter was a rigid pop traditionalist," the New York Times music critic Stephen Holden once wrote. "But he was also an unblinking realist about life, love, pleasure and the transience of it all. For his time, he was even a touch subversive."

Porter's songs have been covered by artists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra to Elvis Costello, and have consoled, inspired, or cheered up millions of people throughout the world. He died in Santa Monica, California, in 1964.

In July, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 48, also known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, into law.

It revised an existing law that adds the LGBT community to a list of under-represented cultural and ethnic groups that are covered in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.

Stop SB 48 wants to repeal FAIR through a ballot measure, and the group has now started a petition drive to get the initiative on the June, 2012, ballot.

In seeking the repeal of FAIR, Stop SB 48 is creating the same kind of coalition of religious groups and conservative think tanks that worked to get California voters to approve anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in 2008.

Courage Campaign, Equality California, and other gay rights and social justice groups are undertaking a "decline to sign" effort to keep California voters from signing Stop SB 48's petition.

"They want kids to grow up thinking gay people have never contributed to society at all," Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs wrote in an email to his members.

Every Wednesday, L.A. Weekly is highlighting those important gays and lesbians in history -- the same people Stop SB 48 doesn't want California students to know about.

Reilly T. Bates contributed to this post.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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