​​​In the history of the world, gays and lesbians have made invaluable contributions to many different societies. One such person is Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

“Everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine,” writes Time magazine, declaring him one of the 100 most important people of the twentieth century.

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

A British citizen who was born in 1912 in India, Turing made a name for himself as a cutting-edge mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist.

In the 1930s, he came up with the Turing Machine, a hypothetical computing device capable of storing information and responding to computational questions — a concept crucial for the early development of computers.

During World War II, Turing also became a celebrated codebreaker.

“Turing played a crucial role in designing a primitive, computer-like machine that could decipher at high speed Nazi codes to U-boats in the North Atlantic,” Time magazine writes.

After the war, Turing focused on computer science and artificial intelligence.

“His research overlapped with philosophy, raising questions about the relationship between computers and nature,” the BBC writes. “He wrote a paper called 'Intelligent Machinery,' which was later published in 1969. This was one of the first times the concept of artificial intelligence was raised.”

Widely considered a genius and one of the most important people of his time, Turing died in 1954.

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.

Recently, gay rights activists have become 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 this week, Stop SB 48 said it expects to gather enough signatures for its initiative to be on the June, 2012, ballot.

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.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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