'Stop SB 48' Doesn't Want California Students To Know About James Baldwin, Walt Whitman and Cole Porter?

​​​​In the history of the world, gays and lesbians have made invaluable contributions to many different societies: from the father of computer science, Alan Turing, to civil rights leader Bayard Rustin to one of America's greatest poets, Walt Whitman.

"If you are American," once wrote literary critic Harold Bloom, "then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse."

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

In fact, the other important gays and lesbians who contributed to a better world include composer Cole Porter, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, writer and political essayist Gore Vidal, anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli, writer and civil rights supporter James Baldwin, and many more.

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

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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 undertaken a petition drive over the past several weeks to get the initiative on the June, 2012, ballot.

Next Wednesday, on October 12, the group will have to deliver more than 500,000 signatures of registered voters in California to the state. If Stop SB 48 comes up short, there will not be a ballot measure.

In seeking the repeal of FAIR, Stop SB 48 created 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 have been 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.

Recently, gay rights activists became concerned that if the petition drive is successful, the gay community will face a major political battle to prevent the repeal of SB 48.

In an email to supporters the other week, Stop SB 48 said it expects to gather enough signatures.

Every Wednesday, L.A. Weekly has been 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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