At the front entrance of the Southern California elementary school that my husband teaches in is a prominent quote that reads, “What you would have in the life of a nation you must first put into its schools.” If LGBT people are going to achieve equal standing in society, the bells of equality must begin to ring in our schools. A new bill in California has a chance to start a national trend of LGBT educational equality.
Equality California and the GSA Network are sponsoring the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, which was introduced in the California Legislature earlier this week by openly gay state senator Mark Leno. This important bill would go a long way to make sure the important contributions of LGBT people are taught in schools. Gay historical figures have been largely plagued by invisibility in curricula, but the FAIR Act would ensure that these figures are no longer de-gayed in California textbooks.
Of course, sentences that include the words “gay” and “education” instantly trigger a fearful response from the anti-gay industry. Anti-gay groups spend millions of dollars to “other” LGBT people – their goal is to paint gay people as being abnormal, different, lesser and as something to be feared, and this proposed legislation counters those messages. Enter the California Family Council, which ishyperventilating about the proposed legislation. They claim this bill opens the door “to further promotion of homosexuality while silencing the voice of traditional morality and Judeo-Christian beliefs in the schools.”
The FAIR Act does nothing to silence anyone; it simply ensures that the fair and accurate truth is presented to our young people. In the process, it will play an important role in making our schools safer. Education is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the effort to eradicate anti-gay bullying in our schools. As Change.org's Dana Rudolph points out, a London school has virtually eliminated homophobic bullying in their school by teaching children about the societal contributions of LGBT people. People fear what they don’t understand, so naturally an increased knowledge base about gay people will reduce fear-based homophobia in schools and by extension, society.
The overwhelming response of It Gets Better videos have provided significant community support for young gay people, but legislation like the FAIR Act will help young LGBT students receive the support they need from inside school walls as well. Previous generations have struggled to find open and honest LGBT role models, but the FAIR Act will allow the upcoming generation to find gay people to look up to while they are doing their homework.
With a new pro-gay Governor taking office in January (Jerry Brown), this legislation has a great chance of becoming law, but it is up to you to let the California legislature know that you support the FAIR Education Act – please sign this petition today.
Photo credit: JGLsongs