In July, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind bill mandating the teaching of a subject about which he thinks Golden State public school students remain unacceptably unenlightened. There has been a seemingly endless stream of reports cataloging the decline of American public education. So you could imagine a new law mandating more emphasis on core curriculum subjects of science, math, history, English or even - given the childhood obesity epidemic - physical education.
But the latest addition to the California public school curriculum will not help our children learn how to write a complete sentence, locate their home state on a map or even run a mile.
Instead, it aspires to sensitize students, as early as kindergarten, to the travails of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. The FAIR Education Act requires the inclusion of the contributions of “sexual minorities” in California public school history lessons and textbooks.
As this new law suggests, homosexual rights advocates have convinced many Americans that they are large in number but short on influence. The opposite is true. In fact, LGBT Americans have become one of the most conspicuous, strident and disproportionately influential groups in American life.
Opinion polls indicate how successful homosexual rights activists have been at convincing Americans that they are more numerous than they are. A recent Gallup poll found that the average American adult estimates that about 1 in 4 Americans is homosexual. This was a slight increase from 2002, when Gallup found that the average American estimated that 22 percent of the country was homosexual.
These numbers greatly overestimate the LGBT share of the American population. As Gallup notes, demographer Gary Gates last month released a paper on the topic and estimated that 3.5 percent of American adults identify as homosexual or bisexual.
The 2000 U.S. census found that homosexual couples constitute less than 1 percent of American households. The Family Research Report states that no more than 3 percent of men and 2 percent of women are homosexual or bisexual.
Even the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force puts the homosexual population at only 3 percent to 8 percent for both men and women.
We live in a time when even some social conservatives feel obliged to preface their opposition to “gay rights” legislation with the defensive phrase, “Some of my best friends are gay.”
But a 2009 Gallup poll found that just 58 percent of Americans actually know an open gay or lesbian, (a relative, co-worker or friend), a percentage virtually unchanged from a decade earlier.
It’s easy to understand why Americans wildly overestimate the size of the LGBT community. Far from being forced to remain in the closet, homosexuals are cheered for “coming out” - and given special attention when they do.
Not so long ago, every homosexual rights milestone - the first openly gay TV character, professional athlete, political candidate, etc. - made headlines.
Homosexuals now are fully entrenched in the worlds of entertainment, higher education and politics. Homosexuals have their own TV networks, magazines and dating websites. ArchieComics just announced that Kevin Keller, its first openly gay character, will start his own monthly series in February.
Homosexual are highly visible on television, making up 3.9 percent of scripted network television’s regular characters, according to the most recent report by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
At least 115 American colleges and universities have LGBT campus centers. There are more than 40 certificate and degree-granting programs in “queer studies.” At least five institutions offer undergraduate degrees on the subject.
In 2009, Harvard University became the first school of higher learning to establish an endowed chair in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund estimates that more than 100 openly homosexual candidates were elected to office nationwide in 2010, an increase of one-third from 2008 and nearly threefold the number of a decade earlier.
Remarking on the anticipated impact of the new California law, Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network in California, said, “Suddenly students [will] see [gays are] part of a broader community, and they have a much better understanding of that community in the context of the rest of the world. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex; it’s about entire communities that are left out.”
Ms. Laub is wrong on all counts. The new law perpetuates the myth that a group defined strictly by the sexuality of its members continues to be unjustly “left out” from the broader community.
An honest societal debate about homosexual rights is hampered by inflated numbers and inaccurate perceptions. These perceptions are a result of the public relations accomplishments of a small, well-funded, highly educated minority that has seized upon the language of the civil rights movement to achieve power and position.
In looking at California’s new educational guidelines, one wonders if it is too late to aspire to the goal of Martin Luther King, who longed for a world in which his children would be judged by the content of their character and not by any other factors.
Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.