Proposition 6: A Historical Controversy from Issues & Controversies in History

Proposition 6: A Historical Controversy from Issues & Controversies in History

An LGBT Pride Month Historical Spotlight from Issues & Controversies in History:
PROPOSITION 6: Should California Voters Pass the Antigay Ballot Measure Known as the Briggs Initiative?

Should Californians pass the Briggs Initiative? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in History’s complete and unbiased coverage of this issue. Learn more about the issue and check out a sample of the pro/con arguments on both sides below.

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In the United States in the 1970s, the movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) people, then known as homosexual or gay rights, was just beginning. Most states at the time outlawed same-sex activity, and discrimination against gay people was pervasive. In 1978, California voters faced a ballot measure, Proposition 6—also known as the Briggs Initiative—aimed at banning gay people from teaching in the state’s public schools. Should Californians pass Proposition 6, or should they support the right of gay men and women to teach?

Arguments for Supporting Proposition 6: Arguments for Opposing Proposition 6:
Proposition 6 provides the solution to a moral issue. Homosexuality is an abomination—an evil that Americans will not tolerate. Gay people choose a lifestyle that goes against the nation’s basic moral principles and is clearly prohibited in the Bible. They should not be teachers. Teachers are role models, and children look to them for moral guidance. Homosexuality is not the kind of moral guidance we want our children to receive. The Briggs Initiative also solves a safety issue. Children are not safe in schools that allow gay people as teachers. Gay people do not procreate and must fill their ranks by recruiting children—and what better place to find impressionable youth than in a school classroom? If California allows people who admit they are gay to work in its schools, the state would be encouraging more homosexuality by inviting students to see it as an acceptable lifestyle. Worse still, it would place people of deviant sexual orientation in a position of power in the classroom to molest children. The passage of Proposition 6 will protect children from these ominous threats. Proposition 6 is a needless law that would hurt all Californians. Existing law already protects schoolchildren from abuse or molestation at the hands of teachers, whether homosexual or heterosexual, and California enforces a stringent code of conduct for educators. Under the Briggs Initiative, any teacher who promoted homosexuality in the classroom could be fired, and if enacted, the measure will cause turmoil in schools across the state. Unfounded accusations will lead to the dismissal of highly qualified and respected teachers and cost communities time and money in lengthy, expensive investigations. By making the public advocacy of homosexuality—outside the classroom—cause for dismissal, Proposition 6 also violates teachers’ freedom of speech and privacy, both guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Gay people are as capable teachers as straight people, pose no threat to society, and as Americans they possess the same constitutional rights as everyone else. The Briggs Initiative is unnecessary, un-American, and wrong.

Issues & Controversies in History links this pro/con article to rich related resources that enhance the debate. Students and researchers can delve into primary sources that provide context, a topic-specific timeline, a bibliography, and a thought-provoking “What if…” section that explores what might have happened had people made different choices. Plus, discussion questions are provided to inspire critical thinking and analysis.

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