Illinois to Add LGBTQ History to Public School Curriculum

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday August 13, 2019

In a move that proponents praise as a means of countering anti-LGBTQ bullying and homophobia in schools, the governor of Illinois has signed into law a bill that requires public schools in that state to include material about historic contributions of LGBTQ individuals, CNN reports.

Gov. J. B. Pritzger signed the legislation — House Bill 246 — into law on Aug. 9. The bill was championed by State Rep. Anna Moeller, and backed by LGBTQ equality advocacy group Equality Illinois, the CNN story noted.

Equality Illinois issued a statement on the new law, in which the group quoted the head of the Legacy Project, Victor Salvo, who said, "In our work, we know how difficult it can be to break through the redaction of LGBTQ people from humanity's story and the consequences of that redaction on our kids. To deny a child information that could give them hope, that could help them feel less alone, that could help them feel like they mattered — while at the same time condemning them to hearing bigoted slurs in the hallways of their schools — is a cruelty that every feeling adult has a responsibility to stop."

The Legacy Project describes itself at its website as "The world's only outdoor museum walk, traveling installation, and youth education program dedicated to combating anti-gay bullying by celebrating LGBT contributions to history."

Another sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Heather Steans, commented on the legislation in a post online some time ago, saying, "An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community."

Added Steans, "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.

"LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to gain new role models who share life experiences with them."

The Washington Times also reported on the story, detailing language from the new law:

In public schools only, the teaching of history 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.

But LGBTQ people won't be the only underrepresented figures whose historical contributions are taught, reported the Huffington Post. So will the contributions of other minority groups that have long been stigmatized and marginalized, such as African-Americans and Asian-Americans, Latinx people, and people from diverse national backgrounds such as the Irish, the Poles, and Italians.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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