New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed into law new legislation Thursday that requires students be taught the societal contributions of notable LGBTQ people throughout history, a move civil rights groups say will further equality in schools across the state.
“It’s critical that our classrooms highlight the achievements of LGBTQ people throughout history,” Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of the group Garden State Equality, said in a statement. “Our youth deserve to see how diverse American history truly is — and how they can be a part of it one day, too.”
The new law mandates the state’s boards of education to “provide instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students.” The new policies will first apply to the 2020-2021 school year.
“Governor Murphy was honored to sign legislation requiring New Jersey school districts to teach about the rich contributions and accomplishments of our LGBTQ community and those with disabilities,” his spokesperson, Christine Lee, said in a statement to HuffPost. “The Governor believes that ensuring students learn about diverse histories will help build more tolerant communities and strengthen educational outcomes.”
The state is the second in the country to enact such legislation after California did the same in 2012. The Golden State passed a law called the FAIR Act that mandated better representation of the LGBT community and other minority groups in schools and added additional frameworks in 2016.
The legislation has already been hailed by lawmakers and civil rights groups.
“It is my hope that with this legislation signed into law we can foster new generations of students that understand the importance of tolerance and equality,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D), a member of the New Jersey Legislature and primary sponsor of the bill, wrote on Twitter.
Aaron Potenza, the policy director for Garden State Equality and a former educator, said the law would encourage inclusivity and send a signal to LGBT students across the state.
“As a former educator and someone who did their doctoral work in the history of sexuality, this bill is particularly close to my heart,” Potenza said in a statement. “I know the importance of this history to American history as well as the impact of representation for LGBTQ identified students.”
Murphy has signed other bills to protect members of the LGBT community in recent years. In July, the governor enacted a law to allow the sex designation on birth and death certificates to be altered.
“New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide,” Murphy said at the time.