By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – A bill that would require school textbooks purchased with certain state funds to highlight the contributions of LGBT individuals to American history and culture is making its way through the Illinois House.
“Historically, they’ve been ignored, and either deliberately or inadvertently left out of our history books,” said Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat who is the lead sponsor of House Bill 246.
That bill, which passed out of committee Feb. 6 and is now before the full House, would require any textbooks purchased through the state’s textbook block grant program to be non-discriminatory and include, “the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act,” a state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and a number of other factors.
The bill also provides that history books purchased by public schools under the block grant program “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 textbook block grant program was established in 2012 as a way to help public and state-recognized non-public schools purchase textbooks. According to officials at the Illinois State Board of Education, however, the program has never been funded, and so it is unlikely passage of the bill would have any immediate impact unless lawmakers decide to include it in future state budgets.
Moeller said the bill was initiated by Equality Illinois, a statewide LGBT rights advocacy group.
The bill drew significant attention during committee hearings where 200 individuals signed up as supporters. Another 132 individuals, including many representing religious organizations, signed up as opponents.
“Quite frankly, it’s indoctrination that goes against many people’s value systems,” Rev. Robert Vanden Bosch of Concerned Christian Americans said in an interview. “I think a lot of parents would be unhappy.”
Moeller, however, rejected that argument.
“That speaks to the fact that they still view LGBT as being sinful,” she said. “Our laws aren’t based on biblical or theological teachings or any religious dogma. They’re based on the Constitution of the United States.
Moeller said a similar bill passed out of the Senate in 2018 and was approved by a House committee, but the House never took final action on the measure.
This year, with Democrats holding a larger majority in both chambers, she said she is hopeful the bill can be enacted into law.