What did Section 28 say?
“A) A Local Authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.
B) A Local Authority shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
You will be shocked to learn that there are newspapers which make things up. In the 1980s there was a national campaign by the right wing press and the Conservative government to label Labour councils as “Loony Left”. Stories on themes like black one-legged lesbians’ trampolining classes were used to persuade voters that Labour councils were wasting your money.
In Nottingham, we had the "Gay swimming" furore, with "mothers fear AIDS risk”. In London there was “Baa baa, green sheep”, about a local authority which had told school teachers that “Baa baa, black sheep” was racist and that teachers should substitute “Baa baa, green sheep”.
The thing to remember about these stories is that 99% of them were just that - stories. The newspapers made it up. Yes, in schools in that authority you could hear infants reciting “Baa baa, green sheep”, not because of the local authority, but because the teachers had read about it in the Sun and - amazingly - believed what they read.
The most notorious example was “Infants given gay pornography” and “Infants encouraged into homosexual practices”. The pornography and the “encouragement” was delivered by a book called “Jenny lives with Eric and Martin”. You can see a typical pornographic page below.
No child was ever given the book. One copy existed in a Teachers’ Centre for use by teachers only. The book depicts Jenny, her father Martin, his lover Eric and is “the story of how they spend their weekend”.
The book was used as the main lever for the introduction of Section 28. Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story
Section 28 produced two of the most memorable lesbian protests.
Some lesbians abseiled from the gallery of the Houses of Parliament, while others invaded the BBC six o'clock TV news ... one managing to chain herself to Sue Lawley's desk. Click HERE to see it on youtube
In addition, some pretend families made themselves visible in Picadilly Circus.
Section 28 is often described as “The law that stopped people talking about homosexuality in schools”.
This was a badly written law, as the Government seemed to have forgotten that Local Authorities have no say about what is taught in schools; that is controlled by the National Curriculum, the Head Teacher and the Governors.
So the 2nd paragraph of Section 28 should have been ineffective. The problem was more with what people thought Section 28 said rather than what it actually said.
Though legally useless (the law was never tested in the courts), it still closed down discussion of homosexuality and allowed schools to think they had legal backing for avoiding a difficult and embarrassing topic.
Section 28: paragraph B introduces one of the most patronising phrases in English law - the idea of the “pretended families”. It is saying “you are not in a real family, you are unacceptable, you are inferior”. Those of us in “pretended families” found that our taxes remained very real.
The consequence of Section 28 is that the one area in our society where LGBT issues have gone backwards is in schools, where homophobic bullying is rife.
Schools must (even the Government says “MUST”) tackle homophobic bullying. Few schools do.
Section 28 was repealed in 2003.
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