Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

New ballot battle coming to CA


State Senator Mark Leno (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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There is another anti-gay ballot measure brewing in California, this one, for 2012, seeks to repeal a recently passed state law that requires social studies curricula in California public schools to include information about the contributions of LGBT people.

The bill, Senate Bill 48, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown last week. It was authored by out state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

But no sooner had Brown signed the bill than Paulo Sibaja, communications director for a conservative family advocacy group in California, sent a letter to state Attorney General Kamala Harris. The letter asks the attorney general to prepare a title and summary for a referendum to repeal Senate Bill 48.

The bill, also known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act, remedies a deficiency in previously existing law that required that public school curricula in the social sciences acknowledge the contributions of various specific minorities, such as African Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans.

The FAIR Act simply adds LGBT people as a specific minority and prohibits instruction or any school activity "that promotes a discriminatory bias on the basis of sexual orientation."

SB 48 was approved by the state Senate on a 23-14 vote in April and approved by the Assembly on a 49-25 vote on July 6. Brown signed the bill July 14.

Under California law, opponents of a law have 90 days from the enactment of a bill to request a title and summary of a referendum from the state attorney general, circulate petitions, and gather 504,760 valid signatures., a web-based organization opposed to the law, sent out an "Urgent Alert," suggesting parents remove their children from public schools. The website warns that the law "means children as young as kindergarten in California K-12 government schools will be forced to admire 'gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans' as their personal role models." The group suggests parents put their children into church schools or school them at home.

Equality California also sent out an "Urgent" alert from Executive Director Roland Palencia. In it, Palencia said it is "not surprising" that paperwork has been submitted to attempt to undo the law.

But Palencia also mentioned the fact that EQCA will need financial resources to combat any campaign.

"We can't take a 'wait and see' approach," Palencia stated. "If our opponents do qualify for the ballot, we must prepare now to fight back – and win in the public arena."

Palencia said opponents of the bill wasted no time in mischaracterizing it, claiming the FAIR Act will "molest the minds of impressionable youth" and turn all textbooks and instructional materials into "pro-homosexual promotion tools."

Leno said that the organization behind the referendum is "extremist."

"This is an extremist group – the far right of the California Republican Party, which represents 30 percent of voters," Leno told the Bay Area Reporter Monday.

However, Leno said it's important for the community and allies to remain vigilant.

"We had heard some whispers last week" about a possible referendum, he added. "It comes with the territory."

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the law is important.

"Our opposition fears information and knowledge more than anything else, to them a mind is a terrible thing to open, once students approach LGBT issues with an open mind, those students can never be duped," Kendell said in an email to the B.A.R . "Once kids learn the facts about the contributions and existence of LGBT people throughout history those kids will not blindly accept the lies and distortions fed to them by those who oppose equality and justice for our community."

Leno noted the importance of the bill and cited one of the current Republican presidential candidates, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who "accepts that gay and lesbian people are satanic."

Bachmann's husband, Marcus, a therapist, "takes taxpayer dollars" and runs discredited reparative therapy, or "pray away the gay," Leno added, referring to multiple media reports over the last week about Marcus Bachmann's clinic and Truth Wins Out's undercover video.

"They are the fact that we need this more than ever," Leno said of the FAIR Act.

In his letter to the attorney general, Sibaja identifies himself only as the "proponent" of the ballot measure and includes no mention of his affiliation with the Capital Resource Institute, a nonprofit group that advocates conservative positions on family issues. A profile of Sibaja on a California Republican website,, indicates he has worked as a substitute teacher in San Bernardino County, volunteered for Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and John McCain, and is a member of various conservative Republican groups.

Cynthia Laird contributed to this report.

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