Illinois lawmakers advance bill requiring schools to teach LGBT history
Illinois state senators have advanced a bill that would require public schools to teach a unit on important LGBT individuals and history.
The Education committee endorsed the measure on Tuesday by an 8-2 vote, The Associated Press reported.
If the measure is enacted, Illinois would become the second state to require an inclusive LGBT curriculum.
Last year, California became the first state to use LGBT-inclusive history textbooks.
“People need to see their history to understand that they are a part of our society,” Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans (D) said after sponsoring the bill.
The proposal would mandate that elementary and high schools teach a unit studying “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.”
School boards would be allowed to determine how much instructional time is spent on the subject.
It would highlight the work of prominent figures who were LGBT, according to the AP report.
“People learn about Jane Addams, [the recognized founder of the social work profession in the United States], for example, but don’t know she’s a lesbian,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of the LGBT organization Equality Illinois. “We don’t think there is true justice for the LGBT community unless we can learn about our history.”
The bill is not too different from current laws that require students learn about other groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
Conservative groups have pushed back against the measure, calling for schools to add dissenting voices of people who oppose “the homosexual movement.”
“The left’s motive is what it always is: it is to normalize homosexuality,” said Laurie Higgins with the Illinois Family Institute, a Christian organization.
Johnson argued the legislation is meant to counteract the negativity LGBT students already face.
“We think all students are better off when we teach them the full breadth of history,” he said. “It makes them more likely to understand that a diverse cast has contributed to our society.”