“Stop SB 48,” the group that sought to repeal a state law that allows California students to learn about important people in history who were gay, has officially announced that it has not gathered enough signatures from registered voters to place an initiative on the 2012 ballot.

“Unfortunately we did not collect enough signatures to qualify the referendum to overturn SB 48,” the group wrote in an email to supporters that was sent out this afternoon. “That law will be in place in our schools at the first of next year.”

Over the past several weeks, L.A. Weekly has been running a series about important gays and lesbians in history, featuring such literary heavyweights as Gore Vidal, Gertrude Stein, and James Baldwin. California students will now be able to learn about their contributions to American society.

Additionally, composer Cole Porter, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet Walt Whitman, anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli, and many other gays and lesbians contributed to making the world a better place.

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 wanted to repeal FAIR through a ballot measure, and the group had undertaken a petition drive over the past several weeks to get the initiative on the November, 2012, ballot.

The group needed to deliver more than 500,000 signatures of registered voters in California to the state by today. Stop SB 48 came up short.

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 undertook 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.

Gay rights activists had become concerned that if the petition drive was successful, the gay community would have faced a major political battle to prevent the repeal of SB 48. That's no longer a worry.

Gay rights activist have said the SB 48 will help students better understand gays and lesbians and possibly prevent anti-gay bullying. Stop SB 48's defeat comes on the day of the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998 for being gay.

Reilly T. Bates contributed to the L.A. Weekly series.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly