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Political editor Brian Taylor
"Section 28 will be repealed"
 real 28k

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network
"We were pleasantly surprised by the findings"
 real 28k

Communities Minister Wendy Alexander
"We have to trust Scottish teachers to get it right"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 19:23 GMT
'Public backing' for anti-gay law repeal

Gay march Equality groups have thrown down a challenge

The Scottish Executive has said there is public support for changing the law on the way teachers deal with homosexuality.

The initial results from a formal consultation process undertaken by the government in Scotland have been published.

The executive has said it is trying to do away with a piece of blatant discriminatory legislation that goes beyond education
Local Government Minister Wendy Alexander
They were released as three pro-equality groups challenged those campaigning for the retention of Section 28 "to support the rights and welfare of all children in Scotland".

And in another twist, Scotland's two leading churchmen are at odds with each other on the issue.

Ministers invited comments from interested groups and members of the public before last Friday's deadline.

Three-quarters in favour of repeal

The executive received 2,350 replies. Another 300 late submissions were discounted.

A spokesman said 75% of the responses backed the repeal of Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The executive is unanimously in favour of changing the law but there is fierce opposition to the plan.

Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander: "We have tried to reassure parents"
Campaigners for keeping the law as it is insist the "silent majority" in Scotland is gravely concerned at the executive's plans.

Local Government Minister Wendy Alexander told BBC Scotland: "All along from day one the executive has said we are trying to do away with a piece of blatant discriminatory legislation that goes beyond education but at the same time reassures parents about what is taught in classrooms.

"That reassurance is about saying 'of course sex education is an incredibly difficult topic but we have to trust Scottish teachers to get that right.

"What we're inviting the Scottish school boards to do is to sit down with us and get those guidelines right so parents are at the heart of making sure the classroom experience is right and right for the age and maturity of the pupil involved."

Groups' challenge

Three groups - the Equality Network, Outright Scotland and the West of Scotland Lesbian & Gay Forum - said the pro-Section 28 lobby, including Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter, implied that they wanted to protect children.

The Scottish School Boards Association's campaign against the repeal of the law, which Mr Souter has offered to fund, will be launched on Wednesday.

Pupil writing "Pupils deserve respect", say the groups
"We suspect that they are more interested in the prejudices of a minority of ill-informed people rather than the concerns of most parents or the rights and well-being of all children," said Brian Dempsey, of Outright Scotland.

"By supporting Section 28, Mr Souter is contributing to the continued isolation and distress felt by many young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual or who have family members who are lesbian, gay or bisexual."

The groups go on to list six points and challenge the pro-Section 28 campaigners to say whether or not they agree with them:

  • ALL pupils have a right to respect, to freedom from discrimination and to inclusive schools
  • ALL pupils have the right to education
  • ALL pupils have a right to care and support in school
  • ALL pupils have the right to age-appropriate teaching and teaching materials
  • Scotland's teachers can be trusted to promote the best interests of ALL pupils
  • Scotland's teachers currently do their best to ensure that ALL pupils are respected but Section 28 is a barrier to their work and undermines the application of these principles.

Churchmen polarised

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Reverend John Cairns, has said he is in favour of repeal.

Children needed guidance about the world as it really is - and that includes homosexuality, he said.

But he added that he wanted to hear more about the rules protecting children from unacceptable material.

His comments put him in direct opposition to the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics who described homosexual acts as "perverted" and restated his objections to the law being repealed.

Cardinal Thomas Winning said he would not stand for homosexuality to be described as "wholesome and healthy".

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Section 28: your questions answered.

See also:
15 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Caution over gay law cash offer
14 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Boycott call in Stagecoach 'anti-gay' row
17 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Cardinal fires Section 28 broadside

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