No Apology for Section 28?

“Melanchthon” has a really interesting post up at CentreRight on Section 28.

As virtually all of you will know, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was introduced in direct and specific response to a situation in which gay liberation activists managed to get themselves elected to local authorities and in particular to the Inner London Education Authority.  These activists then used their political position to force school libraries to carry literature directed at five and six year old children teaching them that it was perfectly normal to be raised in a family with homosexual parents.  The best known of these books was “Jenny lives with Eric and Martin”.

Most people at the time thought (and indeed, I’ll bet most people today still think) that they do not pay their taxes to the local authority so that it can promote alternative lifestyles or force their schools to promote alternative lifestyles.  For this reason, Section 28 was introduced, stating

(1) A local authority shall not—

(a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;

(b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

Note what it says and does not say.  It does not say that schools may not promote homosexuality, if that’s what the school wants to do.  No doubt many anti-gay campaigners wished that’s what it had said.  No doubt many teachers and pro-gay campaigners thought that’s what it said.  But it didn’t say that.

Similarly, I have no doubt that many anti-gay campaigners regarded its purpose as holding some kind of line against what they would have regarded as a descent into depravity, but it was not in essence an anti-gay measure, per se, and not everyone who voted for it or supported it later regarded it as an anti-gay measure.  Just because some people have their own bad reasons for supporting a measure doesn’t make it a bad measure.  For example, doubtless some people who oppose unrestricted immigration into the UK do so for racist reasons.  But that doesn’t mean that believing in controlled immigration is racist.  In precisely the same way, just because some people who favoured Section 28 did so because they were anti-gay does not mean that to support Section 28 was to be anti-gay.

That’s all very well, but I think this comment from Graeme Archer (who is in a civil partnership) is well worth considering:

Section 28 was not just a central government control on local government (though this should be sufficient for any Tory to have voted it down). The entirely antagonistic and insulting message it wanted to transmit to Britain’s gay people is contained in the second clause, not the first one:

the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

I can’t believe in 2009 I still have to write this down, but for the benefit of the anonymous contributor – there is nothing pretend about my existence and the network of love I exist within.

Methinks he has a point.

6 Comments on “No Apology for Section 28?

  1. I’m a bit surprised (if pleasantly) at your response to this, Peter. I would have expected you to see a child brought up by two same sex partners as being denied a “real” family situation, with the complementarity of a mother and a father?

    I read the word “pretended” in Clause 28, not to mean “doesn’t exist” but rather ” a relationship which has “pretensions” to be equivalent to a family unit with heterosexual ( male/ female) parents.”

    • My objection to the second clause has less to do with my understanding of what kind of parental relationships are better for children and far more to do with the way that the language of “pretended” is insulting and demeaning, regardless of the presence (or otherwise) of children in the relationship in question.

        • Define “family”.

          Let’s for the sake of argument assume there are children involved. Are they a family? Of course.

          Are they my preferred form of family? No, and by definition the children will be growing up without (at least) one of their biological parents permanently present. This is statistically on average a worse situation for the child then if both parents were together. That said, I would love to see some good research done (like the Breakdown Britain report on family breakdown) to establish how parenting civil partners (and same-sex couples living together) compare to their other-sex equivalents.

          • But ( I assume) you don’t see two men or two women bringing up a child as “equivalent to” or “as good as” two heterosexual partners bringing up a child?

            If the clause said , ” the acceptability of homosexuality as an EQUIVALENT family relationship ( to heterosexuality)”, would that be OK?

            It just seems clear to me that the word “pretended” implies “with pretensions to be considered equivalent to.”

            I’d also like to see some research on the issue. I watched a programme ages ago ( admittedly some trash like Kilroy or Oprah ) where they spoke to children from same sex situations, most of them seemed very well adjusted and positive about the experience, one or two were negative said it had caused problems. Perhaps much like your average response from kids raised in hetero families?

            • I believe that a married couple is the best environment for bringing up children. On this I’m not just arguing the Scriptural position, but on this occasion the vast majority of statistical research back me up.

              My issue with “pretended” is that most of the gay couples I know (with or without children) don’t “pretend” to be a family.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.