​​​In the history of the world, gays and lesbians have always made important contributions to many different societies. One such person is Gore Vidal, writer and political activist who has written books, screenplays, and provocative essays that have challenged the status quo of American society and culture.

“Vidal is the best all-round American man of letters since Edmund Wilson,” a Newsweek critic once raved.

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

In addition to writing plays and movies such as Is Paris Burning? and Suddenly, Last Summer, Vidal wrote one of the first modern-era novels that openly examines homosexuality: 1948's The City and The Pillar.

The book caused an uproar in the United States, but paved the way for more American writers — especially gay authors — to honestly and truthfully explore human sexuality.

“A brilliant expose of subterranean life,” a critic for The Atlantic magazine wrote.

“An artistic achievement,” a Washington Post critic stated.

Vidal went on to write many other novels as well as essays about American politics and society. In 1993, Vidal won the National Book Award for United States: Essays, 1952-1992.

“That massive volume unearthed a whole continent of brilliant writing about literature and politics,” Jay Parini for PBS's American Masters series writes. “Over a hundred essays were gathered there, showcasing Vidal as a shrewd, uncompromising observer of American political history, cultural history, and world culture.”

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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