California children would read about homosexuals' contributions to history under a bill approved by state senators who often drew on their own childhood experiences in supporting the measure.
The bill would require California's social science textbooks to include the contributions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people to the state and nation's history. California is the United States' largest buyer of textbooks, with annual spending topping $400 million.
The measure passed Thursday 22-15, with no Republican votes. It heads to the Assembly, where opponents vowed another fight.
The bill — introduced by Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the state's first openly gay legislator — also would bar textbooks and other instructional material that portrayed gays in a negative light.
Two of three gay students are verbally harassed and one of six is physically harassed, said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which sponsored the legislation. "The invisibility that currently exists (in textbooks) contributes to that," he added.
Other women senators drew parallels to the lack of female or minority role models they saw in history books as children.
Sen. Bill Morrow disputed the comparison. "If you are a black American, you can't help it, you were born that way," he said. "There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence that suggests that homosexuality is biological in origin..... It is behavioral; it is not racial."
Sen. Richard Alarcon disagreed. "This is the way ... God made people," said Alarcon. "Let's stop trying to hide this reality."
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill.