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Section 28 consigned to history

Section 28 (2A in Scotland) 1988-2000

Who Introduced Section 28?

Section 28 was introduced in 1987 by Dame Jill Knight, Conservative MP for Birmingham Edgbaston. The clause was inserted at committee stage of the Local Government Act 1988 and was heard before a full House of Commons before the Christmas recess on December 15th 1987 . This was during Margaret Thatcher's period as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Local Government Act 1988 was applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, Section 28 was known as Section 2A.

What Was Section 28?

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a clause stating:

'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.'

The clause came into force on 24 May 1988.

The Result of Section 28 in Local Government and Education

As a result of this Law no activity by teachers or local government staff would be allowed in respect of the awareness or promotion or empathy with homosexual people and their needs.

This law was especially responsible for the alienation and non recognition of homosexual people, and meant that many children suffering from homophobic bullying in school had nowhere to turn for help.

The Struggle to Banish Section 28 (2A)

The Labour Party Executive in Scotland, under the leadership of First Minister Donald Dewar and Communities Minister Wendy Alexander decided from January 2000 to introduce legislation within the Scottish Parliament to banish Section 2A from Scotland and its Local Government Acts.

The task was to prove difficult for the First Minister Donald Dewar and the Scottish Parliament. It brought about much heated media frenzy and homophobic opposition from the usual quarters and especially Cardinal Winning of the Catholic Church and some of the Tabloid press. Coverage of the issue was considered by some to reflect gutter press levels of opinion. Money and resources were utilised by Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter for the opposition in the form of hoardings and bill posters with cash-backed mailshots and farcical polls to try to stifle the resolve of people and Parliament to banish the clause.

The broadsheet papers kept a summary of the ongoing struggle, and two of the boards in the Becoming Visible exhibition show a selection of the more balanced reporting from the Glasgow Herald on the hard-won journey to abolish Section 2A by July 2000.

Finally the votes were won and Section 2A was scrapped from the Scottish Local Government Acts. The struggle continued to abolish Section 28 in England and Wales, where they had to wait three more years for its repeal in September 2003.

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