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UK House of Lords Votes to Keep Anti-Gay Law
Blair government criticized as 'inept' for not making repeal a Commons bill
ONLINE:  TUESDAY FEBRUARY 8, 5:20 PM EST (GMT-5).

THE British Parliament's upper house voted 210-165 last night to not repeal the now infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act which prevents the "promotion" of homosexuality by Local Authorities.

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The repeal of the never enforced Thatcher-era law had been scheduled with other amendments as part of the Labour government's legislative housecleaning.  Brought to attention in December in Scotland by a controversial school pamphlet, the unfortunate wording of the section sparked a national controversy whose flash point occurred when a wealthy Scottish businessman pledged £1M to "keep the clause."

A war of words and stances in the media has been occurring since then among religious groups, parents and the Community.  School boards asked for further consultation on guidelines on the teaching of homosexuality in lieu of the law.  The Labour government stood fast on repealing it as planned.

Speculation is now that a compromise may be attempted.
 
Lost in the public debate has been the assertion of the rights group OutRage! and the International Lesbian and Gay Association that curricula decisions in schools were removed several years ago from the jurisdiction of Local Authorities and placed into the hands of school governors, making Section 28 a moot point in the education system.

The bill, which includes the repeal of Section 28, was introduced into Parliament last night as a Lord's bill.  Peter Tatchell of OutRage! condemned the Blair government's move as "inept" and stated:  "After the defeat of the equal age of consent last year, the government knew there was a big homophobic majority in the Lords."

Gay Labour peer Lord Alli fought against amending the bill and accused the supporters of Section 28 of having the same "morality of hate" as the bomber who blew up a gay pub in Soho, central London.  Tory Baroness Young, who introduced the amendment in the Lords, said that they had spoken "for the people."

Had the bill been introduced as a Commons one, the government could have whipped its majority into passing it and then invoked the Parliament Act to override any opposition from the Lords.

At this point the bill can be re-introduced in the Commons, but if opposed in the Lords again will likely go without passing before the next election.

Although Local Government Minister Hillary Armstrong was quoted this morning as saying "Section 28 will go," Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said:  "There are points that we can take on board.  Our sense is that a constructive approach can be worked out."  Speculation is now that a compromise may be attempted.

Supporters of the repeal of Section 28 include education officials and teachers.  They say it prevents them from properly teaching sex and health education and from stopping homophobic bullying in the schools.

OutRage! also criticized the Blair government for not including guidelines in the actual introduced legislation which would be gay affirmative and ensure safe sex education occurs in the schools.

The vote last night applies to England and Wales.  The Scottish government's intended repeal of Section 28 has yet to go to the Scottish parliament.