Backers of the referendum will need to gather 504,760 signatures from registered voters by Oct. 12 to qualify for the next statewide ballot

California’s secretary of state on Tuesday cleared a group to begin collecting signatures for a ballot referendum to overturn a first-in-the-nation law requiring public schools to teach the contributions of gays and lesbians in social studies lessons

 

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB48 earlier this month, making California the first state to mandate such lessons in public school curriculum. The requirement is set to take effect in the 2013-14 school year.

It took opponents less than two weeks to draft the referendum challenging the move.

At a time of budget cuts, California schools should be focused on improving student performance and lowering the high school dropout rate, said Paulo Sibaja, a spokesman for the group Stop SB48.

“Politicians have no business writing textbooks. It should be left to the historians and academic experts,” he said.

Backers of the referendum will need to gather 504,760 signatures from registered voters by Oct. 12 to qualify for the next statewide ballot. Sibaja said paid and volunteer signature-gatherers will be used to try to meet the requirement.

Supporters of SB48 said it will teach students to be more accepting and perhaps help end bullying of gay students. It also ensures that students are taught about the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.