California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring public schools to teach students about the contributions of gay and lesbian people, making California the first state to adopt such a measure.
The bill was cheered by gay rights advocates, and Brown said in a written statement Thursday that it "represents an important step forward for our state."
The legislation requires instruction in the social sciences to include the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, as well as people with disabilities and members of other cultural groups.
It would prohibit teaching from textbooks or other instructional materials that reflect adversely on people because of their sexual orientation.
"History should be honest," the Democratic governor said in a written 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."
Written by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) the legislation was approved in the Legislature along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
Republicans and conservative groups railed against it again on Thursday.
Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said Brown is "out of touch with what I think are still mainstream American values."
"That's not the kind of stuff I want my kids learning about in public school," LaMalfa said. "They've really crossed a line into a new frontier."
Leno's Senate Bill 48 is similar to a proposal that was approved by the Legislature in 2006 but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, argued that students were already protected from discrimination.
Existing California law requires public school instruction to include the contributions of women and other minorities, and it prohibits materials that reflect adversely on people because of race, gender or other characteristics. Leno's bill adds gay and lesbian people to that group.