Last month, California’s Temecula Valley Unified School Board voted 3-2 to reject a new elementary school social studies textbook because it included material about gay rights activist and elected California official Harvey Milk. Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk was assassinated by a former city supervisor 11 months into his tenure.
Temecula School Board President Joseph Komrosky slandered Milk by making the baseless claim that he was a “pedophile” during the board meeting. Danny Gonzalez, one of the three members of the board who voted against the materials, also characterized Milk as a pedophile, while saying Milk’s “lifestyle choices” were not appropriate. Jennifer Wiersma, who also voted against the textbook, argued the perfectly ignorant, “I don't want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don't want them going into gender ideology.” If you keep your kids in a cave, maybe they won’t “go into” being a person in the world, I guess?
The decision could leave more than 11,000 students without social studies textbooks next year. On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom publicly excoriated the ruling, calling the board president “an ignorant person,” and reminding the board that “This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn.” Newsom added, “Stay tuned.”
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ABC News reports that many board members were vocal in their opposition to this bit of homophobia, including the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association, Edgar Diaz, who said, “We've never experienced this before. I've never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials.” The teachers union is planning on holding rallies over the banned materials in the coming weeks.
Conflating pedophilia with homosexuality is pretty much the original (and most basic) version of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. The fact that some of these board members have the intellectual capacity of a homophobic tomato doesn’t change the offensiveness of their position. By their logic, we shouldn’t discuss anybody in American history, including:
This is not about making good decisions for children as much as it is about adults trying to create ignorant people who are as fearful of the world around them as they are. The unease of bigots around LGBTQ+ people, in general, is very apparent in how frequently banned books happen to humanize transgender characters or celebrate advances in civil rights.
The result of these bans is the increasing psychological (and frequently physical) harm it does to young LGBTQ+ Americans. People like Nikki Haley and her brand of “reasonable” Republicanism spew misinformation and hate against gender-affirming programs. Their interests are entirely based on controlling children by making them ignorant about anyone who lives a life their parents’ petty and dogmatic worldview cannot explain away.
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Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we're joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on "blue surge" voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.