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Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 19:43 GMT


Setback for gay ban pledge

Clause 28 has been a rallying point for gay rights groups

A government pledge to repeal legislation banning the use of council funds to promote gay and lesbian lifestyles has been put on hold.

Plans to abolish Clause 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act have been omitted from the government's schedule for Parliament this month.

This effectively relegates any lifting of the ban to after the next general election.

Clause 28 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher's government after concerns that literature promoting homosexuality was being inappropriately distributed in schools.

Lords reform

The decision not to abolish the clause is likely to provoke a strong reaction from the UK's homosexual community.

The clause has been a rallying point for gay and lesbian pressure groups who see it as a form of state-sponsored oppression.

The lifting of the ban was to have been included in the Queen's speech - which details legislation to go before Parliament - on 24 November.

But the government is reportedly concerned that action against Clause 28 would not clear the Lords.

There will almost certainly be no action to lift the ban until reforms designed to deprive hereditary peers in the Lords of their voting rights are implemented.

Child protection

This will not happen before the year 2000, thereby making the removal of Clause 28 the decision of whichever party wins the next election.

Legislation in the Queen's speech will include several measures to protect children in the care of adults.

Sex between teachers and sixth-formers is likely to be made illegal, and the law will probably be extended to include residential social workers, care workers and foster parents.

Measures designed to improve the chances of passing a new law lowering the gay age of consent from 18 to 16 also seem likely to appear in the speech.

Gay rights group Stonewall appealed to the government to press ahead with its plans to abolish Clause 28 and act to prevent homophobic bullying in schools.

Executive director Angela Mason said: "The continued existence of Section 28 puts the lives of young lesbians and gay men at risk and children grow up thinking it's okay to insult somebody because they are gay.

"We call on the ministers for local government and education to give a lead now."

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