Remember the Briggs Initiative?
In 1978 Californians voted on a ballot proposition that would have banned gay and lesbian teachers from working in public schools?
As folks who've seen the movie Milk know, the Initiative failed with flying colors, becoming one of the few ballot victories for LGBT rights during the 1970s.
Or make that any decade, for that matter.
The idea that people would want to root out gay teachers from public schools is a pretty scary proposition.
Though one might think that the sentiment died in 1978 along with the Briggs Initiative, think again. DailyKos/Research 2000 has a new poll out surveying Republican attitudes on a number of issues, among them the question of whether openly gay teachers should be allowed to teach in public schools.
A whopping 73 percent of Republicans surveyed said that gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools.
And all of a sudden it feels like the 1970s again.
If 73 percent of the Republican Party frets about openly gay teachers, that puts them to the right of some of the most prominent Republican political figures in history, including Ronald Reagan, who urged folks to defeat the Briggs Initiative way back in the 1970s.
Do these numbers speak for the entire Republican Party? No, of course not. But this is another sign that the bulk of the party has turned rapidly right-ward since the 1980's.
In my lifetime, here in überliberal West Coast California, I have never really suffered this type of homophobia. For the most part, I have been an openly gay teacher. It has even been celebrated as another point of diversity. Nevertheless, there are always families in the shadows, sometimes quietly, sometimes not, who question my role working with kids. The code "he talks too much about his personal life" has come to said about me a few times. I have not doubt that I will not lose my job here for being openly gay. But this is obviously a case to be looked at very carefully most anywhere else in this country, even in 2010.
I wonder if Harvey Milk is turning in his grave with this poll.