Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conservative Californians Seek Referendum to Repeal Law Protecting LGBT Students

Earlier this month, Governor Schwartzenegger signed into law SB 777, the Student Civil Rights Act, which adds sexual orientation to the enumerated grounds for nondiscrimination in California's public schools. Laws like this, which have already passed in thirteen other states, are necessary to ensure that schools take appropriate measures to protect against the high instances of bullying and harassment of students who are or perceived to be gay or gender nonconforming.

Now, conservative groups have begun a ballot initiative that could, if successful, repeal the law before it takes effect in January. On Monday one such group filed referendum papers with the state attorney general. Once the attorney general gives the proposed referendum an official title and summary, those groups will set about garnering the 400,000+ signatures required to put the question on the ballot.

SB 777's opponents apparently believe that a law protecting LGBT students from discrimination will indoctrinate students into deviancy by banning references to mothers and fathers in textbooks and ordering schools to allow boys to use girls' locker rooms. This is really conjecture, as locker rooms are not mentioned in SB 777, nor are there are examples from other states with similar antidiscrimination laws of locker-room gender anarchy. As for erasing mothers and fathers from textbooks, this hyperbole traces back to the bill's prohibition on adopting textbooks that "contains any matter reflecting adversely upon persons" because of their sex, race, national origin, handicap, religion, or sexual orientation. Interpreting references to mothers and fathers as disparaging to a student's sexual orientation makes about as much sense and is as unlikely as an interpretation that textbooks referencing white, male, able-bodied, Christian Americans are disparaging against individuals in the statute's other protected categories.

Despite its absurdity, judging by the results of a Google News search for "SB 777", this rhetoric has taken off like wildfire in the conservative and religious publications in California. I'm sure these articles of distortion and fear-mongering will easily convince the requisite number of people to sign the petition to put the question on the ballot. Hopefully, though, California voters will realize that to oppose a law that opposes bullying is, quite simply, to support bullying.

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