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The BBC's Robin Oakley reports
"In the end the government were comfortably defeated"
 real 28k

Mark Watson from Stonewall
"We are obviously disappointed"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 22:18 GMT
Government suffers Section 28 defeat

MPs debate lowering the homosexual age of consent on Thursday

The government has suffered a defeat in the House of Lords over its plans to lift the controversial Section 28 on the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.

Peers voted by 210 to 165 to throw out the move on Monday night.

I urge the government to take note and to abandon its plans to repeal Section 28
Baroness Young
The vote, during the committee stage of the Local Government Bill, which covers England and Wales, means the government will now reinstate the proposal when the bill goes to the House of Commons.

Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong said the government was "very disappointed" at the vote, but added: "The government remains committed to the repeal of Section 28, which has caused confusion in schools and local councils, and has been a barrier to building a supportive and tolerant society."

The Lords defeat followed a passionate six-hour debate among peers and a day of attempts by ministers to head off an embarrassing setback.

Education Secretary David Blunkett had tried to counter fears about schools promoting homosexuality by publishing guidelines for sex and relationship education and stressing "that it is not the job of teachers to promote a particular sexual orientation."

Councils cannot promote homosexuality under Section 28
But an amendment from former Conservative Leader of the Lords, Baroness Young, to keep Section 28 won support from all sides, with 15 Labour peers defying a government whip by voting to keep the ban in place.

Lady Young said that when Section 28 was introduced some councils were spending large sums of money "seeking to require schools to promote homosexuality".

She said: "The centre of this debate is children, children in schools, children who in my opinion ought not to be treated as if they were adults and in a position to make an informed choice about alternative lifestyles, about which they cannot possibly have the experience to judge."

I think it does promote hate because it divides one section of the community from another, it doesn't tell children they should think about equality.
Lord Alli
Tory education spokeswoman Baroness Blatch said: "Those of us who oppose the repeal of Clause 28 cherish childhood and care about the moral framework within which children grow up and develop."

But Local Government Minister Lord Whitty said many teachers, social workers and doctors wanted Section 28 to be lifted to help them advise children and adults about their sexuality.

Lord Alli, the gay Labour peer, compared the "hate" engendered by Section 28 with last year's nail bomb attacks in black and Asian areas of London and a gay pub in Soho.

'Comfort to homophobes'

He said: "This is indeed a debate about morality. For me it is about the morality of hate. I believe that that hate exists because we teach our children to hate."

The repeal of Section 28 is not some sort of green light for pornography and corruption
Baroness Hamwee
After the vote, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the result had given "comfort and encouragement to homophobes everywhere".

But Baroness Young said: "Once again, the House of Lords has spoken for the people. I am very grateful to all those who have supported me from across party lines."

And Tory leader William Hague said: "The vast majority of parents up and down the land will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this common sense decision by the House of Lords."

But Liberal Democrat local government spokeswoman Baroness Hamwee confirmed her party's support for the repeal of Section 28, adding: "The repeal of Section 28 is not some sort of green light for pornography and corruption."

A spokesman for the Keep the Clause campaign in Scotland said: "Let this be a warning to those who would put the moral education of our children at risk. The campaign in Scotland to resist the repeal of Section 28 will be equally robust."

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  Education
Sex guidelines in Section 28 row
07 Feb 00 |  Education
Anti-gay bullies 'given free rein'
30 Jan 00 |  Education
Gay law change defended
04 Feb 00 |  Education
Schools will get their own Section 28
02 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Peers plan to block Section 28 repeal

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