Section 28

Section 28
Section 28
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Section 28.

 

A UK law existed that existed from 1988 – 2003 and affected LGBT+ people. 

 

What was Section 28?

• Section 28 of the Local Government Act was enacted in May 1988

• It was brought in to “prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities”

• That’s local councils – the organisations responsible for things like social care, rubbish collection and schools

• The law was partly inspired by a 1983 story book called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, which aimed to give children information about different types of family relationships

• Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said at the time: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.”

• There were mass protests by LGBT+ campaigners

• The law was stopped in Scotland in 2000 and in the rest of the United Kingdom in 2003

• Thirty years after the law was made, Baroness Knight – the woman largely responsible for introducing it – said she was sorry if the law hurt anyone and that her intention had been the “wellbeing of children” 

Some people believed that Section 28 prohibited local councils from distributing any material, whether plays, leaflets, books, etc, that portrayed gay relationships as anything other than abnormal.

Teachers and educational staff in some cases were afraid of discussing gay issues with students for fear of losing state funding.

Because it did not create a criminal offence, no prosecution was ever brought under this provision, but its existence caused many groups to close or limit their activities or self censor. For example, a number of lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual student support groups in schools and colleges across Britain were closed due to fears by council legal staff that they could breach the Act.


While going through Parliament, the amendment was constantly relabelled with a variety of clause numbers as other amendments were added to or deleted from the Bill, but by the final version of the Bill, which received Royal Assent, it had become Section 28.

Section 28 is sometimes referred to as Clause 28. Since the effect of the amendment was to insert a
new section ‘2A’ into the previous Local Government Act, it was also sometimes referred to as Section 2A.

 

 

 

On 7 February 2000, the first attempted legislation to repeal Section 28 was introduced by the Labour Government as part of the Local Government Act 2000, but was defeated by a House of Lords campaign led by Baroness Young.

In the newly devolved Scottish Parliament the repeal process was more successful. Various groups campaigned against the repeal. The Scottish millionaire businessman Brian Souter privately funded a postal ballot as part of his Keep the Clause campaign, which returned an apparent 86% support for keeping the clause, from a response from slightly less than one third of the 3.9 million registered Scottish voters. However, Section 28 (although, more accurately, it was Section 2A of the relevant Scottish legislation) was successfully repealed as part of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 on 21 June 2000 with a 99 to 17 majority vote with only two abstentions.

 

On 24 July 2000 the Local Government Act 2000 was sent back to the Lords with an amendment re-introducing repeal. Concessions were made in the form of the new Learning and Skills Act 2000 which emphasised family values and which was hoped would win over opponents. However, the repeal was again defeated in the House of Lords.


Despite successive defeats in the House of Lords of attempts to repeal Section 28 in England and Wales, the Labour government passed legislation to repeal this section as part of the Local Government Act 2003 by a vote of MPs. This passed the Lords and received Royal Assent on 18 September 2003 and the repeal became effective on 18 November 2003.


The Conservative-run Kent County Council however decided to create their own version of Section 28 to keep the effect of the now repealed law in their schools. This was replaced with provisions stating that heterosexual marriage and family relationships are the only firm foundations for society on 16 December 2004.

 

“If Section 28 and the attitudes behind it had remained then society would still believe that gay people are second class citizens and that it is right that they should be treated as second class citizens.”
Sir Ian McKellen

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