& opinion


February 1988: Eight women abseil into a Parliamentary debate to protest against Conservative legislation. March 2003: Sussex LGBT members paint a huge banner in rainbow colours and collect fellow student and staff handprints and signatures on it before posting it to the House of Lords.

In 1988, an amendment to the Local Government Act, Section 28, came into effect. It wasn’t long until lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights campaigners caught onto the implications of the new law and starting battling to have the offensive and homophobic law repealed. Section 28 makes no bones about its intent: It is explicitly aimed at the "prohibition of promotion of homosexuality by teaching or by the publishing of material" by a Local Government Authority. The wording of the Section is so ambiguous and loosely interpretable that the Section effectively means that schools cannot talk about many aspects of homosexual relationships for fear of prosecution. This means that it is almost impossible for teachers to provide effective support to students suffering homophobic bullying, and that the bullies cannot be effectively educated. The confusion that all teachers face is entirely understandable - a subsection within the law states that if a Section 28 related court case should happen, the court "shall draw such inferences as to the intention"...as may reasonably be drawn from the evidence..." What "reasonably" could mean is anyone’s guess.

Although no one has ever been prosecuted under S28, its introduction has meant that since 1988, a number of valuable resources for children and teenagers have had funding blocked. Youth groups aimed at young gays, lesbians and bisexuals have been shut down. Libraries have refused to stock publications with a gay theme. Councils have refused to publish leaflets aimed at troubled teenagers because the leaflets stated that homosexuality was a normal and acceptable lifestyle (these leaflets also contained material dealing with bereavement, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual health, and family problems, amongst other things).

Sussex Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender society believes that the law is fundamentally wrong. We believe that in a day and age where it is illegal to verbally abuse someone because of their sexual preference, it is totally unacceptable that teachers are unable to effectively deal with homophobic bullying in schools. It is unacceptable that there is legislation which states that gay families and relationships are no more than "pretend", and it is unacceptable that gays and lesbians in British society are having their right to be recognised as equal members of society denied by this antiquated and unjustified law. Sussex LGBT believes that this law has no place in British legislation, and should be amended.

The Lords will be debating the amendment or repeal very soon. We can only remain hopeful that this time they will see sense, and repeal this ridiculous and homophobic invention of Thatcher’s Conservative Party. Sussex LGBT will be campaigning, alongside NUS LGB, against Section 28 until it is repealed. Watch out for more and have your say: HANDS UP AGAINST HATE, DOWN WITH SECTION 28!