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"Broad smiles from ministers who've endured months of critical attack"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 June, 2000, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
MSPs abolish Section 28
Gay rights groups
Gay rights groups have been celebrating
Members of the Scottish Parliament have made history by scrapping the controversial Section 28 law.

They voted by 99 to 17 with two abstentions to abolish the bar on the promotion of homosexuality.

This brings to a close the bitter political argument over the issue.

Repeal will take effect next month following Royal Assent.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith: Did U-turn
Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers insisted that the law - originally introduced by the Tories - was discriminatory and should go.

That was backed by the SNP, but the Tories opposed repeal and made an attempt in Wednesday's final debate on the matter to have the importance of marriage written into the law.

However, ministers have already accepted that marriage will be spotlighted in the legally binding guidance on sex education which will go to schools.

Amendment rejected

MSPs rejected Tory criticism over the abolish move.

They voted by 100 to 20 against the Conservative Party's amendment.

Repeal is not and never has been about the promotion of homosexuality in our schools

Wendy Alexander, Communities Minister
MSPs discussed Section 28 as part of their debate on the Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill which concentrates on stamping out sleaze in public bodies.

Plans to scrap the law have dominated the headlines.

Keep the Clause campaigners against repeal welcomed the marriage clause and repeal backer, Tim Hopkins, of the gay rights group Equality Network, said he hoped the issue would finally be resolved.

Executive U-turn

The compromise was suggested by the independent McCabe Committee.

It said the text of guidance to local authorities on teaching sex education should stress "....the importance of stable family life and relationships", with the crucial addition "....including the responsibilities of parenthood on marriage".

The McCabe Committee consisted of parents, teachers and church representatives appointed by ministers.

I may be old fashioned but I feel I speak for a majority of Scots when I say marriage is a cornerstone of civilisation

Keith Harding, Tory MSP
Mr Galbraith had previously remained defiant throughout the whole debate that legally binding measures would not be necessary.

Communities Minister Wendy Alexander insisted in the debate that the executive recognised the central role of marriage in Scottish society.

She said Section 28 was being repealed because it was the right thing to do.

"This clause is not about marriage - it is about children, all children, and specifically the responsibilities of our local authorities towards our children.

'Accept the inevitable'

"This clause should not make distinctions between children based on the character, or the legal status, of the homes from which those children come.

Liberal Democrat MSP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Mike Rumbles appealed to Conservatives to accept the inevitable and support the Bill in the final vote.

But Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, Keith Harding, said: "I may be old fashioned but I feel I speak for a majority of Scots when I say marriage is a cornerstone of civilisation."

SNP education spokesperson Nicola Sturgeon then accused the Tories of contributing nothing in the effort to find an "honourable settlement" to the affair.

Stagecoach millionaire Brian Souter, the main backer of the high-profile Keep the Clause campaign, acknowledged the inevitable outcome an hour before the final vote.

In a statement, the businessman said: "I believe the fight has been very worthwhile and it is good to see marriage placed at the centre of statutory guidance for future generations of Scots.

"At the end of the day, the values we have fought for are priceless."

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See also:

17 Jun 00 | Scotland
Campaigners hail S28 climbdown
31 May 00 | Scotland
Poll 'backs' Section 28
30 May 00 | Scotland
Section 28: They said it
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