KuehlA California senate committee approved a bill last week that would require schools in the state to represent "sexual diversity" in their curriculums and point out the historical contributions of gays and lesbians. The bill, which now advances to the full senate for a vote, expands on existing state education code requiring that ethnic and cultural diversity be taught, and it may have national implications because California often directs publishing trends as the country’s largest textbook buyer.

"We’ve been working since 1995 to try to improve the climate in schools for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender kids as well as those kids who are just thought to be gay, because there is an enormous amount of harassment and discrimination at stake," the bill’s sponsor, Democratic state senator Sheila Kuehl, who is lesbian, told Knight Ridder newspapers.

She added that research indicates that gay and lesbian students might prosper academically if their history is affirmed and be less susceptible to suicide or drug and alcohol abuse. ”Teaching materials mostly contain negative or adverse views of us, and that’s when they mention us at all,” she said. ”In textbooks it’s as if [the lesson is] ‘There’s no gay people in California at all, so forget about it.’ "

If the bill passes both the California senate and assembly, it will be up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to approve or veto it. Last fall the legislature passed a marriage equality bill, but the governor vetoed it. (The Advocate)