LGBTQ+ history is taking over America.
In the past week, two states have made moves to further inclusive education in their public school systems. Last week, Illinois became the latest state to pass a statewide law mandating LGBTQ+ history be taught in classrooms. Then on Tuesday, Maryland Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) announced the state would be rolling out LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum standards in its schools.
However, Maryland has yet to sign a statewide bill on LGBTQ+ history. To date, there are five states in the U.S. where the governor has endorsed teaching the legacy of activists like Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Marsha P. Johnson in schools, although more states are likely to follow.
We’ve decided to spotlight the all the states where the study of queer and trans people’s contributions to American history are mandated by law.
California was the first state in the nation to require the study of LGBTQ+ history. According to chief author state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the FAIR Education Act “ensures the historical contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are accurately and fairly portrayed in instructional materials by adding [LGBTQ+] people to the existing list of under-represented cultural and ethnic groups already included in the state’s inclusionary education requirements.”
The legislation was backed by the LGBTQ+ advocacy groups Equality California and the GSA Network, the latter a nationwide organization to support Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in July 2011.
“History should be honest,” Brown said at the time. “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. It represents an important step forward for our state, and I thank [co-sponsor] Senator Leno for his hard work on this historic legislation.”
California was also the first state to pass a statewide bill banning conversion therapy from being performed on LGBTQ+ youth under the age of 18.
Eight years after California became the first state in the country to make LGBTQ+ history a part of its public school curricula, New Jersey followed suit, making it the second state with an inclusive education law on the books.
The legislation, passed in January 2019, mandated that school districts “adopt policies and curriculum changes aligned with the state’s learning standards” on LGBTQ+ history, according to the North Jersey Record. However, the state left it up to individual districts to determine how to best follow those requirements.
As the Record reports, districts are also expected to select LGBTQ+ inclusive textbooks any time they order new history books for schools.
Jaime Bruesehoff, whose trans daughter, Rebekah, spoke in favor of the bill, claimed the legislation is nothing short of life-saving for LGBTQ+ children in New Jersey. “This bill is so important for our young people,” Bruesehoff, a resident of the city of Vernon, told the Record earlier this year. “They need to see examples of themselves in the history being taught and in classes they are going to each day. We know representation matters.”
In May, Colorado joined California and New Jersey in making the study of LGBTQ+ people’s contributions to U.S. history a part of every public school student’s academic curriculum.
Along with requiring the study of LGBTQ+ history, the Colorado law also mandates students learn about the contributions of Indigenous Americans, Latinx Americans, Black Americans, and Asian Americans, as well as the stories of any LGBTQ+ Americans who belong to the aforementioned racial and ethnic groups. The legislation directs that schools address “the intersectionality of significant social and cultural features within these communities.”
The bill was signed into law by America’s first openly gay governor, Jared Polis, shortly after Colorado passed a statewide LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination bill and legislation banning conversion therapy on minors.
One of the more frequently overlooked states to pass an inclusive curriculum bill is Oregon, where openly bisexual Gov. Kate Brown signed an LGBTQ+ history bill, HB 2023, in June. The legislation, which passed 51-7 in the House and 21-5 in the Senate, calls upon schools to teach the “perspectives of individuals who are of Native American, African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Chicano, Latino or Middle Eastern descent; are women; or are disabled; immigrants or refugees; or are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
HB 2023, however, is not limited to history curricula. According to the bill text, schools are also required to instruct students on the “roles and contributions” of LGBTQ+ people in “geography, economics, and civics.”
The legislation is expected to take effect in January 2020.
Newly elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 246 into law last Friday, making Illinois the fourth state in the country to legally mandate the study of LGBTQ+ history. The legislation, a broad education bill addressing various academic requirements, requires that “the teaching of history [in public schools] shall include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this state.”
The legislation passed 60-42 in the Illinois House and 37-17 in the Senate. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), a cosponsor of the bill, believes the law’s passage will improve education for all students in the state.
“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans said in May, as HuffPost previously reported. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to gain new role models who share life experiences with them.”