The House has passed a bill that would require school textbooks to include a study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in America's history.
House Bill 246, sponsored by Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin), passed with 60 Yes votes and 42 No votes.
"Teachers and school districts can already choose to teach this," Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said on the house floor. "Have you talked to parents and teachers in your home districts? What do they think? Here's what parents in my district said: How or why is someone's sexual preference relevant when talking about history? Especially in kindergarten and elementary-school education."
Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine)
Morrison said there was no parental opt-out and no notifications for parents to discuss the information with their children prior to it being taught in schools.
"These are complicated matters that are not appropriate for this grade level," Morrison said. "This shouldn't be a statewide mandate. Only two other states have this requirement: California and New Jersey, and New Jersey's starts in middle school."
Morrison said many teachers have expressed they are already struggling to get through the mandates they currently have. He also said that he is always in favor of a well-educated and well-informed citizenry, but America and Illinois are already failing to teach history to children.
"We aren't covering the basics," Morrison said. "Only one-third of Americans can pass the U.S. citizen test. On that test, Illinois finished in the middle of the pack. The states that already have this mandate finished below Illinois."
Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) supported the bill.
"To deny teaching this is to deny historical facts," Gong-Gershowitz said. "Teaching LGBTQ history is important."
Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) said kids are accepting, but it is the parents who have biases. She shared a story of when her young son had a friend at school who had two mothers.
"Bias creates intolerance and that leads to bullying and that leads to hate," Conroy said. "I encourage you to please vote for this bill."
Moeller said all humans need to feel they belong and that they are valued.
"By deliberately excluding or leaving this out, it sends a message that the LGBTQ don't belong and aren't valued," Moeller said.
The bill amends the school code and provides that the textbooks authorized to be purchased must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory as to any of the characteristics under the act.
If passed by the Senate, the legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2020.