California school textbooks would highlight the role gays have played in the history of the nation's most populous state if a new proposal that has angered conservatives passes the state Legislature.
History books record contributions by gays but their sexual orientation is often ignored, a situation gay activists say is inexcusable in California, home to a large gay population in San Francisco, a city that briefly made history in 2004 by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The proposed bill would require school textbooks to include lessons on how gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons have helped California develop.
Conservative groups say the proposal before lawmakers goes too far and promise a hard fight in California's ideologically divided Legislature. They say it is another bold political move by gay-rights advocates who last year lobbied the Democrat-led Legislature to pass a bill to allow same-sex marriages.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed that legislation, but has not taken a position on the new bill.
"This bill would also prohibit anything that reflects adversely on those people," said Karen England of the conservative Capitol Resource Institute.
"They're after their lifestyle to be embraced and they want to force it on kids as young as kindergarten."
If the bill by Democratic state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the Legislature's first openly gay member, becomes law, it would have a national effect because California is the biggest U.S. market for school textbooks, England said.
Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay-rights group and supporter of Kuehl's bill, said the legislation would shed light on a community not discussed in public school books.
One figure activists say merits a place in history texts is San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official of a major U.S. city. Another city supervisor shot and killed Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978.
"Public schools should be teaching about all of our history and not deliberately excluding," Kors said. "What this bill does is it ensures that students get a full and complete education."
Inclusion of ethnic groups mandated
The bill would amend California's education code to revise its list of groups whose roles in the history of the state and nation are included in textbooks.
It would add "people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender" to the list, which currently includes various ethnic groups.
Kuehl was unavailable to discuss her bill, which the state Senate Judiciary Committee passed Tuesday by a 3-1 vote with only Republican Senate leader Dick Ackerman opposed.
It still needs to win approval by the Senate and the state Assembly before being passed to Schwarzenegger.
"It's overreaching on many levels," Ackerman said, adding he expects the Democrat majority in the Senate to ensure its passage.