Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Autumn 2000

Section 28 Back on the Agenda?

Just before Gay and Lesbian Humanist had the finishing touches put to its pages, the Government signalled that it would be trying again to repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act.

Hilary Armstrong, the Local Government Minister, said, “Let’s not forget it’s the Tories who try to stigmatise the entire gay community.

“They used the unelected House of Lords to frustrate our determination to repeal Section 28 and to build a society which is more tolerant.”

Her words came at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, where, to cheers, she said, “I promise you, conference, this is unfinished business.”

The question of the abolition of Section 28 was dropped by the Government after much religious opposition, defeats in the Lords and a need to press on with other parliamentary business. Its last defeat in the Lords was in July, when once again the religionists were out in force.

If Labour puts repeal in its next manifesto, we could see an interesting political situation (assuming they win a second term). Under the Salisbury Convention, peers do not vote against manifesto commitments set out by the winning party. But feeling among the religious right has been so strong throughout this entire debacle that such a convention could find itself swept away, especially as the Lords has been stripped of its hereditary peers.

Section 28 was scrapped in Scotland in June. Any future wrangling at Westminster will affect only England and Wales.

And it has to be said that words are cheap and easy: New Labour has not, of its own volition, delivered on gay equality in three years. Can we expect anything different in a new parliament?

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Created : Sunday, 2003-03-09 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :