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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 07:08 GMT

UK: Scotland

Schools' gay ban to be lifted

Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the move

Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar has described as "a badge of shame" the law which bans schools from promoting homosexuality.

Chief political correspondent John Morrison: "A mixed reaction to the repeal"
The Scottish Executive is planning to scrap the law, known as Section 28, in new legislation to be put before the Scottish Parliament early next year.

Gay rights campaigners in England and Wales hope the move will prompt similar action south of the border.

Introduced in 1986 by right-wingers in the Thatcher government, the law forbids schools and councils from using lessons or publications to promote homosexuality.

The legislation will be part of the Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill and will be steered through parliament by the Communities Minister Wendy Alexander.

[ image: Wendy Alexander:
Wendy Alexander: "Anti-bullying measure"
She said the executive's main reason for repealing the law was to cut down on bullying in schools.

"If we are serious about tackling bullying in schools we need to acknowledge that bullying based on sexuality is a real problem."

She pledged that allowing councils to promote homosexuality would cut down on discrimination

Mr Dewar told BBC Scotland: "The repeal of Section 28 is justified because it is a clause that was put on the statute book amidst great controversy.

"It has always given deep offence and both my party and the Liberal Democrats pledged to remove it when we got that opportunity.

Donald Dewar: "Section 28 is a badge of shame"
"It has become really a badge of shame in the eyes of a very important part of our community and I think we're right to remove that."

He added that he expected the Westminster Parliament to repeal the ban in England and Wales as well.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell: "Critics say removing section 28 will rake up controversy
Gay rights group Stonewall said it would be putting pressure on the government in England and Wales to include legislation in the Local Government Bill which is expected to be announced in the forthcoming Queen's Speech.

"This is the ideal opportunity to repeal the legislation. The government has said it will repeal the law at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity is now."

He added: "The legislation is damaging young lesbian and gay people. It is wrong to treat them as second class.

"It would be a shame if people in Scotland were faring much better than people in England and Wales."

'Too much promotion'

But Conservative MSP Phil Gallie said Labour was wrong to remove Section 28. "We should leave in place what has worked," he stated.

[ image: Phil Gallie: Opposed to repeal]
Phil Gallie: Opposed to repeal
Mr Gallie disputed Wendy Alexander's belief that the move would would prevent gays being bullied in schools. "The gay campaigners are there to promote homosexuality.

"I've no problems with people who live within their own premise and do their own thing quietly and in the background but there's far too much of a promotion aspect in things today and this clause refers to the promotion of homosexuality."

Roman Catholic church spokesman Monsignor Tom Connolly said: "Clearly we are not in favour of promoting homosexuality, either in schools or in society in general.

"On the other hand, in today's world, sex education is very important but I stress the word 'education' and not 'instruction'.

Spiritual values

"I fear that too often people give instruction and pretend it is education. Education, I believe, is where you explore spiritual values of sexuality and base it firmly on human relationships."

Tim Hopkins: "Homophobia rife in our schools"
The church would closely study the consultative document on the changes and respond to it, he added.

Tim Hopkins, from the Lesbian and Gay Equality Network in Edinburgh, said: "Sex education does have to be based on human relationships but it needs to be inclusive and it needs to include young gay people in the class.

"At the moment it can't do that because of Section 28. Teachers can't give the support they should be giving to young gay people to protect them from homophobic bullying which is rife in our schools."

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