On Thursday, Gov Jerry Brown (D) signed the landmark FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act making California the first state in the US to require public schools to include the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans; Pacific Islanders and persons with disabilities. This bill would also prohibit discriminatory instruction and discriminatory materials from being adopted by the State Board of Education.
Californian law already requires state schools to teach about the contributions of Native Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and European Americans, among other groups.
"History should be honest," Brown said in a statement.
"This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books," he said.
"Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them," said Mark Leno, a democratic state senator who wrote the bill.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a similar bill in 2006, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who was then the governor, vetoed it. The measure won final passage from the state legislature earlier this month when it passed on a 49-25 party-line vote, with Democrats in favour and Republicans opposed.
Although the new law will take effect in January, state textbooks and curriculum are not likely to be updated until 2015.
According to a factsheet published by Equality California, an analysis of the 2000 U.S. Census revealed that there are more than 92,000 LGBT households in California (not including single LGBT people or LGBT couples who do not cohabitate), and about 6% of voters in a 2000 statewide election identified as LGBT.
"While LGBT people represent a sizable and important part of the state, mention of the LGBT community’s role in California history and contemporary society is virtually non-existent in textbooks and other school instructional materials."
It also cited the Preventing School Harassment Survey in California which found that schools where the majority of youth report having learned about LGBT people in the curriculum, only 11% of students report being bullied, but that number more than doubles to 24% if the majority of students in a school say they haven't learned about LGBT people.