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since the controversial and homophobic legislation known as Section 28, introduced under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was repealed. The clause which was originally an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 banned local authorities and schools from promoting homosexuality. It soon became the focal point of UK homophobia, and was seen by many people as justification for prejudice against gay people.

The legislation meant that councils were prohibited from the funding of books, plays, leaflets, films, or other materials showing any same-sex relationships, while teachers weren't allowed to teach about gay relationships in schools.

A newly updated edition of Young, Gay & Proud is available from Amazon. Section 28 was introduced following a difficult period for the LGBT+ community in the UK. There had been some progress, but the outbreak of HIV/AIDS led to the widespread demonisation of gay and bisexual men in the 1980s. Young gay people suffered prejudice and isolation, particularly at school or college. Many committed suicide.

The Conservative Party capitalised on this anti-gay sentiment. In the run-up to the 1987 general election, they issued posters claiming that the Labour Party wanted LGBT+ friendly books like Young, Gay and Proud and The Milkman's on His Way to be read in schools. In 1987, a British Social Attitudes Survey found that three-quarters of the population thought homosexuality was "always or mostly wrong". Just 11 per cent of the UK population in those days said it was "never wrong".

Section 28 was UK law for more than 15 years. It was in November 2003, that Ed Davey who was then deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, now knighted and their leader, introduced a clause in the House of Commons that would repeal this appaulling and cruel law. He said that Section 28 left young people feeling "alone and vulnerable".
In his role as Spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he went on to say, "It is wrong to have a prejudicial piece of legislation on the statute book. I am proud to have moved the clause that abolished Section 28 once and for all. But we still have so far to go. From trans rights, to the persistent discrimination faced by the LGBT+ community: the fight is far from over".
The House of Commons then voted by a massive majority of 368 to 77 votes to repeal Section 28 and sent the battle on to the House of Lords.

Labour MP Kali Mountford pointed to the redundancy of Section 28 by pointing out that it is a myth that Section 28 has had any role in protecting children when she said: "The protection is in the good sense of the parents, teachers and governors on the governing bodies."

Commenting on the vote, Stonewall's Director of Parliamentary Affairs Sacha Deshmukh said: "The Commons has voted overwhelmingly for Section 28 to go. They understand that there is no place for a law that is offensive and completely redundant."

Two Conservative amendments were tabled for debate. The first called for the retention of Section 28. The second, supported by the Tory leadership, sought to modify the management of sex education classes in schools. Both amendments were overwhelmingly defeated.

Sacha Deshmukh added: "The Conservative leadership's amendment was rightly defeated by a huge vote. They proposed adding layers of pointless bureaucracy in every school and wanted to set up complicated ballots that would have turned every school into an electoral battleground. Their proposals were completely unnecessary and unworkable."

"The bigots who wanted to keep Section 28 have been shown to be a small, sad and isolated axis of prejudice."

"Tory modernisers who backed the straightforward repeal of Section 28 deserve congratulations. People like John Bercow, Michael Portillo and Archie Norman realised long ago that the Conservative party will only have a future if it rejects hate and stops trying to stigmatise different sections of society."

"Our campaign now moves on to the House of Lords. Peers now face a clear choice. They can listen to democratic will and common sense by supporting repeal, or they can out themselves as defenders of bigotry by defending this hateful clause. We call on members of the House of Lords to support repeal and show that there is no place for prejudice in modern law making."

Baroness Young
Conservative Anti-equality campaigner
Baroness Young

Although Commons sense prevailed, some in the Lords did everything they could to queer the pitch. This was largely due to an orchestrated anti-gay campaign led by Tory peer Baroness Young. She had previously worked hard to try to stop legislation going through that would allow unmarried couples, including gay men and women to adopt children and led campaigns in the House of Lords to prevent equalisation of the age of consent. She was of course ultimately defeated on all counts having died a few months before the vote of repeal.
After the House of Lords vote, Campaigning group Stonewall hailed it as "a triumph for tolerance over prejudice."

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: "Section 28 was a pernicious piece of legislation deliberately framed in order to stigmatise a minority group. We're delighted that the House of Lords has demonstrated a willingness to listen to reason at last.

"Stonewall has worked long and hard to have this deeply offensive law overturned. Today's vote was a triumph for twenty-first century tolerance over nineteenth century prejudice."

"A noisy minority of politicians have defended this indefensible totem for far too long. I suspect that many voters around the country hope they will now turn their attention to issues such as schools and hospitals"

"We have lobbied harder than ever before during the last month but our arguments have been based entirely on fair treatment for all citizens. We're enormously grateful to all those peers who have supported and encouraged us during those 14-hour days."

"Of course," added Ben Summerskill, "we regret that organisations such as the Christian Institute found it necessary to resort to distortion and scaremongering in their attempts to frustrate this long overdue change in the law."

A Conservative amendment to allow parental vetting of sex education classes was defeated. Sex education in England and Wales has been regulated by the Learning and Skills Act since 2000. The repeal of Section 28 will not change the regulation of sex education in schools in any way.

At the 2001 General Election, future Prime Minister David Cameron was elected as the Member of Parliament for Witney. He supported Section 28 at the time, voting against its repeal by Tony Blair's Labour Government in 2003. Cameron voted in favour of that Conservative amendment that retained certain aspects of the clause, which gay rights campaigners described as "Section 28 by the back door". The Conservative amendment was unsuccessful - Cameron making himself absent for the vote on its eventual repeal.

In June 2009, Cameron, then-Leader of the Conservative Party, formally apologised for his party's introduction of the law, stating that it was a mistake and had been offensive to gay people. He restated this belief in January 2010, proposing to alter Conservative Party policy to reflect his belief that equality should be "embedded" in British schools.

 

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