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Labour peer, Lord Alli
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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
Peers vote to keep gay ban
a sex education class
Many peers say schools should promote marriage
The government has said it remains committed to scrapping Section 28 despite suffering a defeat in the House of Lords.

Peers backed an amendment to retain the controversial measure banning the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities by a majority of 270 to 228 on Monday night.

Ministers must now decide whether to drop the repeal clause or risk losing the Local Government Bill altogether.

Tory leader William Hague urged the government to accept the will of the "mainstream majority" of the British people.

"The House of Lords has once again shown that, on this issue they are more representative of the British people than the House of Commons," he said.

The overwhelming majority of parents do not want this kind of teaching in schools, paid for by tax-payers

Baroness Young
But Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong said: "We remain committed to modernising local government so that councils put people first and operate in an open and accountable way."

"We also remain committed to the repeal of Section 28. We must now consider how to achieve both these aims."

Monday night's vote was the second time Lords had rejected government plans to scrap Section 28.

Lady Young
Lady Young says children must be protected
The vote followed a heated two-hour debate in the Lords, which saw impassioned pleas on both sides.

Conservative Baroness Young, who spearheaded the campaign to save the legislation, said the section provided essential protection for youngsters against gay "propaganda".

Repeal would be deeply unpopular with the public, she told peers before the vote.

The clause affects authorities in England and Wales. Section 28 was scrapped in Scotland last month.

5,000 letters

Baroness Young said she had rarely known an issue which touched people so deeply, illustrated by the 5,000 letters of support she had received.

House of Lords
The bill has bounced between the Commons and the Lords
"If Section 28 is repealed, then outside of education narrowly defined as sex education, there will be no safeguards," she warned.

With Lady Thatcher, a fervent supporter of Section 28, listening intently, she said it would be perfectly legal for a local authority to promote homosexuality in lessons such as English, where parents have no right to withdraw their children.

Lady Young said repeal would send a clear signal to local authorities to promote homosexuality.

She said: "I will fight for the protection of children while I have breath in my body.

"The overwhelming majority of parents do not want this kind of teaching in schools, paid for by tax-payers and council-tax-payers."

"I am perfectly certain that were we to vote to keep Section 28, the House of Lords would once again be speaking for the overwhelming majority of the British people," she said.

Those who want the law scrapped argue that it prevents teachers and youth workers dealing with homophobic bullying.

The vote was tighter than last time, as Prime Minister Tony Blair has since created another 30 Labour and Liberal Democrat life peers.

Liberal Democrat Earl Russell argued it would be wrong and unfair to cast one group of people as inferior.

The Bishop of Winchester said he would vote against the government, arguing it would be "most unwise" to repeal the clause. The section was a "stabilising benchmark", he said.

Plea for tolerance

Gay Labour peer Lord Alli said Section 28 did not apply to public schools, yet they had not been flooded by gay propaganda.

Knowledge of racism or anti-semitism did not make people black or Jews, so knowledge of gay issues could not turn people homosexual.

It remains the responsibility of this House to respect and protect the interests of minorities

Lord Whitty
"Let us extend to others the tolerance and understanding that we try give each other in this House," he said.

Conservative education spokeswoman Baroness Blatch warned that militant gay groups would dance for joy, while parents and teachers would shed tears if the clause was scrapped.

Local government minister Lord Whitty said the government had brought forward sex education guidelines to replace the clause.

"It remains the responsibility of this House to respect and protect the interests of minorities against majorities," he said.

"This is a human rights issue."

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Section 28: An overview
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
The new Iron Lady
25 Jul 00 | Scotland
S28 repeal 'on course' in Scotland
24 Jul 00 | Education
Section 28 more symbol than substance
18 Jul 00 | Education
Sex guidelines threat defeated
31 May 00 | UK
The Section 28 battle
24 Jun 00 | Scotland
S28 debate - one to remember?
20 Jan 00 | Scotland
When gay became a four-letter word
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