Thursday, 24 May 2018

30 years ago today

Thirty years ago to this very day, Section (or Clause) 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 (which amended the Local Government Act 1986 by adding Section 2A) came into effect in England, Wales and Scotland.

It stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

One of the most perniciously anti-LGBT pieces of legislation in recent UK history, it was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of the UK by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.

The law's existence caused many groups to close or limit their activities or self-censor. For example, a number of lesbian, gay and bisexual student support groups in schools and colleges across Britain were closed owing to fears by council legal staff that they could breach the act. These fears were never tested in a court of law.

The LGBT communities realised the impact this law was likely to have on LGBT people, and in particular on young LGBT people, so they began to campaign against it. One of the most memorable events took place on 23rd May 1988, the night before Section 28 came into law, when a group of lesbian activists invaded a BBC TV News studio just as it began a broadcast. This links to a BBC World Service item about that:

Anti-Section 28 demonstration 1988

Deny Clause 28 banner London 1988
Repeal action in London c1998 - Bus painted pink
Theresa May in newspaper article pre-2003 affirming support for Section 28

This link includes links to the material I used for a presentation on the history of Section 28:
Sue Sanders's ex[erience as a lesbian teacher during the Section 28 years: