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Scottish Government's Plan to Repeal Anti-Gay Law Explodes into Controversy
Repeal to Continue but Compromise Promised on Related Issues

AN element of the new Scottish government's legislative agenda became the subject of regular media-reported position statements recently as school health education literature sparked a national controversy sending all stakeholders to a high-ground stance.

Related News
UK House of Lords Votes to Keep Anti-Gay Law
Apparently beginning inconspicuously with the attention of the Scottish School Board Association being brought to certain pamphlets, correspondence was then sent to the Scottish Communities Minister indicating that this material, including something called "Spot the Hetero - A Practical Guide to Challenging Homophobia in Schools," by Avon Health Promotions, was inappropriate, as detailed in a statement on the Association's website.  The Minister wrote back in agreement.  At some point Churches became involved on the issue, as well as parents of schoolchildren and the gay Community.  The flashpoint occurred when a wealthy Scottish business owner pledged £1M to fight the "cause," igniting another round of position statements in the media.  The result today is the Association requesting further examination of sex education prior to repeal of the law, the Ministry holding its stance on exactly the opposite, and interest groups circling in the meantime.

The repeal is not scheduled for Royal assent until June.

The Core Issue
At the heart of the controversy is Section, or Clause, 28 of the Thatcher-era Local Government Act of 1988.  According to UK rights group OutRage! it is believed to "prevent the promotion of homosexuality in schools."  Apparently not in effect in either England or Wales, the Section was announced in October by the new Scottish government as included for repeal in the Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill.  The clause apparently is deterring health and sex education programs in schools from including homosexuality and safer sex and has been problematic for teachers and school boards themselves.

The School Board Association held consultations with its Boards and other stakeholders on the issue as well as on the ones of health and sex education.  Wrapping up last Friday, the Association was reported in the Electronic Telegraph two days prior as being "totally opposed" to Section 28, although in its statement, referred to above, regarded the particular issue of guidelines for sex and health education as requiring review.

The Catholic Education Commission seemed to have agreed with the repeal in practice.  It was reported in the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as having released a draft of a 37-page sex education booklet.  Teaching about relationships, the booklet discusses gay ones qualified with the statement that those who are homosexual should be accepted with respect and compassion.  One school board head was quoted as saying:  "This document gives us clear guidelines and is very welcome."

Conservative politicians in the government's Opposition disagreed with the repeal of Section 28 as well as did the Catholic Church proper.  The gay Community was on board with the government.  Stated OutRage!:  "Unless repealed ... schools will continue to avoid their responsibility to tackle homophobia."  It claimed that Section 28 prevents gay content in sex and HIV education and that teachers fear prosecution if they give supportive advice or counseling to gay and lesbian teenagers.  It was business as usual for the Scottish government on the issue, and they were quoted in the Telegraph as saying:  "[We are] still committed to the task, which is to end prejudice and homophobic bullying in schools."

Development of a Controversy and Results Today

OutRage! Claims Law in Question Not Applicable to Schools