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assembly scales back gay-inclusive textbook bill

assembly scales back gay-inclusive textbook bill


California lawmakers on Monday gutted a bill that would have required state textbooks to include the historical contributions of gay people

The California assembly on Monday gutted a bill that would have required state textbooks to include the historical contributions of gay people, amending it to say only that school material should not be discriminatory toward gays. Lawmakers voted 56-2 to delete the provision at the request of the bill's author, Sen.Sheila Kuehl, who had feared a gubernatorial veto. Her bill instead would prohibit any negative portrayal of gay people in textbooks and other instructional material, expanding current antidiscrimination laws that apply to minorities. "I'm not really someone who wants to plop something down on his desk for him to veto," said Kuehl, a Democrat from Santa Monica. "I want a signature." She said she was upset that Schwarzenegger had taken the unusual step of issuing an opinion about a bill before it reached his desk. Kuehl said Schwarzenegger chief of staff Susan Kennedy told her privately that the governor "has been getting a lot of heat about your bill when he goes to speak to conservatives. He just doesn't want to sign it." Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson on Monday declined to comment on the amendments to the bill but reiterated concerns about the measure. "The governor will not sign a bill that micromanages curriculum that is better left with the state board of education," she said. Asked for a response, Kuehl said antidiscrimination language is a question of fairness and equality. "Antidiscriminatory provisions in state law have never been seen as 'micromanaging' education decisions," she said. Although many assembly Republicans voted for the amendments, they remain opposed to the underlying bill, which continues to elicit opposition from conservative groups. "We took a terrible bill and took some of the sting out of it," Bob Huff, a Republican from Diamond Bar, said in an interview after the vote. "It's still a bad bill." Huff, a member of the assembly education committee, said additional antidiscriminatory language is not needed because any teacher promoting an antigay message would be sued. Republican assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy said the proposed changes are "nothing more than putting perfume on a pig." Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families, called upon Schwarzenegger to keep his promise to veto the bill. "SB 1437 still requires all teachers, all textbooks, and all instructional materials to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, bisexuality, and homosexuality, including homosexual 'marriages,'" Thomasson said of the amended bill. State law prohibits textbooks from portraying people negatively because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry. Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said gays and lesbians should be added to the list. "Youth in schools should be able to come to school and not feel disparaged," Kors said. With the amendments passed Monday, the assembly next will vote on the full bill. If approved, it would be sent back to the senate, which approved the bill in its original form in May. Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat from Los Angeles who presented Kuehl's amendments, said he expected a spirited floor debate on the bill. "We're removing provisions of the bill that have proactive mandates but keeping the bill intact where it relates to antidiscrimination," he said. "Antigay literature ought not to be presented to our children." (AP)

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