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social sciences

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Clause (or Section) 28  
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Efforts to Repeal Section 28

In June 2000, using the powers conferred on it by the devolution process, the Scottish Parliament quietly abolished Section 28. Only the minority Conservative Party opposed the repeal. In England, however, the Section remained law, despite several efforts at repeal, until September 2003.

In 1990, Thatcher was replaced as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party by John Major, thus bringing to an end the longest uninterrupted British government of the twentieth century. Major did not change his party's support for Section 28, which, thus, remained unchallenged even after the 1992 general election, unexpectedly won by Major.

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In 1997, Tony Blair's Labour government came to power, with wide-spread support from gay men and lesbians, who had high hopes that Section 28 would quickly be repealed. Blair and his cabinet fought several battles to repeal Section 28, although the Labour Party itself, and especially its representatives in the House of Lords, were far from unanimous in its stand against it.

In spite of the huge majority that Labour gained in 1997 and kept in 2001, repealing Section 28 proved a difficult task. The difficulty stemmed primarily from the staunch opposition of the House of Lords, which is not elective and not subject to party discipline and where several peers represent cultural and religious entities that are hostile to gay rights.

In 2000, at the instigation of Blair's government, the House of Commons voted to repeal Clause 28, but the government was defeated twice (on February 7 and July 24) in the House of Lords, in spite of concessions stressing the importance of the family in the Learning and Skills Bill and the replacement of most Conservative hereditary peers with Labour and Liberal-Democrat members.

During Blair's second mandate, the House of Commons once again repealed Clause 28, but this action was not confirmed by the Lords until September of 2003.

Opposition to Repeal

Conservative hard-liners, favored by Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith, consistently opposed repeal of Section 28. While some prominent Conservatives, such as the former Cabinet minister Michael Portillo, argued in favor of repeal, the majority of the Party opposed repeal.

In addition, religious groups, such as the evangelical Christian Institute, the African and Caribbean Evangelical Association, Christian Action Research and Education, the Muslim Council of Britain, and groups within the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England also opposed repeal. Newspapers such as The Daily Mail and The Telegraph editorialized against repeal.

Opponents of repeal claimed that Section 28 protected children from predatory homosexuals and seeking to indoctrinate vulnerable young people into homosexuality. In addition, some argued that Section 28 was not really homophobic, since it neither advocated nor prohibited homosexuality; it merely prevented state promotion of homosexuality to young people, who should be able to decide for themselves about such issues when they are ready.

The Labour peer Lord Ahmed, representative of the Muslim community in Britain, strongly opposed repeal. Although professing to be shocked by the amount of bullying and violence directed against the homosexual community, he justified his vote against repeal in these words: "I am convinced that some local authorities will interpret the repeal of Section 28 as a ticket to promote homosexuality . . . . The Muslim community is totally opposed to the repeal of Section 28."

Proponents of Repeal

Glbtq organizations such as Stonewall and OutRage! and glbtq media such as the Pink Paper and the Gay Times led the campaign for the repeal of Section 28. The repeal effort was also endorsed by a minority of religious groups and leaders, including Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford.

In addition to the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party also campaigned to repeal Section 28. Mainstream media supporting repeal included The Guardian, The Independent, and The Mirror.

In the House of Lords, the campaign for repeal was led by the openly gay peer Lord Alli.

The main argument against Section 28 was that it discriminated against homosexuals of all age groups, and that it was an intolerant and disrespectful law, which unfairly labeled gay family relationships as mere pretense. Additionally, Section 28 put teachers in an awkward position in reference to homosexual bullying and, thus, endangered vulnerable children. Moreover, the law was based on the homophobic assumptions that homosexuals and homosexuality are inherently dangerous to children, and equated homosexuality with pedophilia.

The cultural and political battles sparked by Section 28 became a barometer of British attitudes toward homosexuality, indicating that despite some legal and social advances for glbtq people in Great Britain, homophobic views and assumptions remain alive and well.

Luca Prono

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Moran, Joe. "Childhood Sexuality and Education: The Case of Section 28." Sexualities 4 (February 2001): 73-89.

Stacey, Jackie. "Promoting Normality: Section 28 and the Regulation of Sexuality." Off-Centre: Feminism and Cultural Studies. Sarah Franklin, Celia Lury, and Jackie Stacey, eds. London: HarperCollins, 1991. 284-320.


    Citation Information
    Author: Prono, Luca  
    Entry Title: Clause (or Section) 28  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated April 16, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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