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Stuart Bell
"It was not in the manifesto."
 real 28k

Glenda Jackson
"Why should homosexuality be excluded in sex education?"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 14:21 GMT
Labour to toe line on Section 28

Campaigners: Gay groups are calling for equality across all issues

Labour MPs will face a party whip over the controversial Section 28 repeal after protests from within their own party over a free vote.

The change in stance came after the government had earlier suggested it would allow a free vote amid a growing campaign against the repeal.

Conservative MPs are already under a three line whip to oppose the amendment.

MPs are expected to debate a repeal of Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities, later in the year.

Despite the government's attempt to placate criticism, Labour MPs reacted furiously to the free vote proposal, saying a failure to impose a whip on the vote would indicate a lack of commitment over the issue.


Labour MP Stuart Bell, among the fiercest critics of the government's decision to repeal Section 28, has been among those calling for a conscience vote.

He warned that a whipped vote could result in a rebellion by Labour MPs.

Section 28 bans the promotion of homosexuality
Mr Bell, a church commissioner, said: "It was not in the manifesto, we did not fight the General Election on repeal of Section 28.

"What we are talking about here is children, their childhood, their education, their life expectancies, and it's wrong to put this burden on them, of their sexual orientation, when they are at school."

Glenda Jackson, one of Labour's candidates for London mayor, welcomed the decision to impose the whip.

She told the BBC: "This has been party policy, quite apart from government policy, ever since this particularly obnoxious little clause was introduced by the Conservatives in 1988.

"It's a clause which helps support those who approach the issue of homosexuality from the perspective ... their approach often seems to me to be one of prejudice."

Candidates back repeal

Ms Jackson joined four other London mayoral candidates in a letter to The Times newspaper, calling for a repeal of the legislation.

The five, also including Labour's Frank Dobson and Ken Livingstone, Tory Steven Norris and the Liberal Democrat's Susan Kramer, said that Section 28 damaged the health of gay people.

"Far from protecting young people, Section 28 has helped to foster widespread homophobic bullying in schools," they wrote.

"Because of Section 28, schools currently feel unable to offer appropriate support to gay pupils."

In a move coinciding with the candidates' letter, the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading Aids charity, launched the UK's first anti-homophobia cinema advert.

The campaign, entitled "'It's prejudice that's queer" will screen with the film Double Jeopardy.

"Repealing Section 28 and establishing an equal age of consent are essential if we are to tackle homophobia which is a serious, widespread problem," said the Trust's chief executive, Nick Partridge.

"Section 28 and the unequal age of consent enshrine homophobia as laws that damages the health of gay people physically, mentally and emotionally."

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Section 28 row intensifies
25 Jan 00 |  UK
The Section 28 battle
26 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Resist Section 28 repeal - Hague

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