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.

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