SACRAMENTO, Calif. (The Blaze/AP) -- Earlier this month, The Blaze first reported on a controversial California bill that would require the state's public schools to teach children lessons about gay and lesbian history. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, making California the first state in the nation to add mandatory lessons of this type to social studies curriculum.
Brown, a Democrat, signed the landmark bill requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum. The Democratic-majority Legislature had passed the bill last week on a largely party-line vote. KCRA-TV has more:
"History should be honest," the governor said in a statement Thursday. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books."
The bill has drawn criticism from some churches and conservative groups that argue such instruction would expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.
Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill had called it a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill. Some raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.
State Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill's author, hailed the bill signing as a step toward teaching tolerance. Supporters say the bill will teach students to be more accepting of gays and lesbians in light of the bullying that happens to gay students.
"Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans," Leno said in a statement.
California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.
The new law, SB48, requires the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities, as soon as the 2013-2014 school year. That said, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the state's budget crisis has delayed new book purchases until at least 2015.
Gays and lesbians aren't the only ones being added to California curriculum; individuals with disabilities will also be covered during classroom instruction. The legislation leaves it to local school boards to decide how to implement the requirement. It does not specify a grade level for the instruction to begin.
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a conservative family group, said under the new law parents will have no choice but to take their children out of public school and homeschool them to avoid what he said was "immoral indoctrination." The new law applies only to public schools, not private schools or families who homeschool.
"Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the overwhelming majority of California fathers and mothers who don't want their children to be sexually brainwashed at school," Thomasson said. "This new law will prohibit textbooks and teachers from telling children the facts that homosexuality is neither healthy nor biological."
Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), who serves as the vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education, also said:
"If children in other countries are learning math and science, and American children are learning about the private lives of historical figures, how will our students compete for jobs in the global economy?"
The bill was supported by gay rights organizations including Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. Teacher groups also said the bill would help students prepare for a diverse and evolving society.
"There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state," said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association.