1998 May

OutRage! Amendment to the Human Rights Bill Tabled

OutRage!’s amendment to the Human Rights Bill was tabled on Monday, 18th May, by top Liberal Democrat, Robert Maclennan, MP.

It is now listed as NC (New Clause) 10, and will come up for debate in the first week of June.

The OutRage! amendment was drafted by Peter Tatchell. It is a revised version of an earlier OutRage! amendment, also drafted by Tatchell.

The new version drops the previous explicit reference prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and medical condition. It now guarantees rights and freedoms “without discrimination on any ground”.

“The new wording was necessary to ensure the amendment fell within the scope of the Bill and was not ruled out of order. It will also result in more MPs backing the amendment”, said Tatchell.

“This comprehensive ban on discrimination will have the same effect as my earlier version. It gives protection against discrimination to everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and people with HIV and AIDS”.

“Because the new amendment guarantees nondiscrimination to all, it will be much harder for MPs to oppose it. They will not be able to claim we are pleading for special rights or privileges. Most MPs won’t want to be seen as sanctioning discrimination. The new draft increases the likelihood that they will support the amendment”, said Tatchell.

The OutRage! amendment, as tabled, reads:

Guarantee of nondiscrimination

Mr. Robert Maclennan, MP

To move the following new Clause: -

‘(1) If a court’s determination of any question arising under this Act concerns an issue of discrimination, it must have particular regard to the guarantee in Article 14 of the Convention that the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground.

(2) In this section, “court” includes a tribunal.’

FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020-74.03.17.90

Homophobic Response at London Oratory School

School Leafleted in Section 28 Protest

Call to stop classroom censorship of gay issues

London Oratory School stands accused of homophobia. Some teachers displayed hostile, fearful homophobic reactions when on arrival at school they were handed leaflets headlined “It’s OK to be GAY!” this morning (Wednesday, 20th May at 8:15 a.m.) by 14 members of OutRage!.

Several teachers expresssed hostility to the discussion of lesbian and gay issues, being too afraid to take a leaflet; and a small number of pupils shouted “queers” and “poofs” at the leafleters. Worryingly, one member of staff defended the right of teachers to be homophobic. Other teachers and parents, however, were supportive. — One parent requested copies of the leaflet for her younger son’s primary school.

“London Oratory School has a number of homophobic staff who are clearly too terrified even to accept information on gay issues”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “As we have witnessed today, antigay prejudice is a problem the school needs to confront urgently.”

The OutRage! leaflet says: “Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are equally valid … If you are not sure about your sexuality, it’s okay to experiment. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!”.

It features photos of kissing gay couples, and lists phone numbers for lesbian and gay helplines and youth groups. The leaflet asks: “Are your teachers giving you the gay facts of life?”.

OutRage! is calling for an end to the censorship of gay issues in the classroom. “We want the repeal of Section 28, and new legislation requiring all schools to provide honest, nonjudgemental information about homosexuality. Schools should be legally obliged to combat prejudice and promote the welfare of lesbian and gay pupils”, said Huw Williams of OutRage!.

“There is massive censorship of gay issues in schools. Homosexuality is not mentioned in most sex education lessons. No information is given about how to have gay sex safely.

“Our leaflet gives students the gay facts of life. Teachers should be providing this information: but most are failing to do so”, said Mr. Williams. “Most teachers are now aware of the need to combat racism: but very few demonstrate comparable concern about homophobia.”

OutRage!’s leafleting coincides with the 10th anniversary this coming Sunday of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act becoming law. Section 28 bans the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities. OutRage! says many teachers mistakenly believe that Section 28 applies to schools. (It doesn’t.) This has led teachers to censor lesbian and gay issues. OutRage! wants Section 28 repealed, to end this confusion.

The OutRage! leaflet calls on pupils to challenge antigay bullying in the school playground, and to support their lesbian and gay classmates. It advises gay students who are being bullied to contact Childline on 0800-1111.

A 1996 SURVEY OF LESBIANS & GAYS UNDER 18 FOUND THAT:

  • 50% had been assaulted because of their homosexuality.
  • One in two of those assaulted said the attack involved fellow students,
    and 40% said the attack took place at school.
  • 60% had suffered harassment, such as threats, blackmail, and graffiti.
  • 73% of these said the harassers were other pupils.
  • 90% were verbally abused at school with taunts of “poof”, “lezzie”, “queer” and “faggot”.

A 1998 REPORT PUBLISHED BY THE TERRENCE HIGGINS TRUST FOUND THAT:

  • most teachers had difficulty in addressing the needs of of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils.

ORGANISATIONS WHICH SUPPORT BETTER GAY SEX EDUCATION INCLUDE:

  • The British Medical Association, the National Union of Teachers, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Save the Children, Childline, the Royal College of Nursing, MIND, and Kidscape.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Kevin Weaver 020-82.65.47.52 or 0850-56.67.10
FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020-74.03.17.90

Tougher Penalties for Homophobic Hate Crimes

Proposed Amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill

Richard Allan MP (Liberal Democrat, Sheffield Hallam) last Friday (8th May) tabled an OutRage!-sponsored amendment to crack down on the perpetrators of homophobic violence.

The amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill is expected to be debated this week by the Standing Committee of 24 MP’s that is currently scrutinising the Bill.

The new Equality Alliance, representing over 160 organisations campaigning for lesbian and gay human rights, has written to all 24 members of the Standing Committee, urging them to back the amendment. It has also written to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, and four other Home Office Ministers.

OutRage! believes it can win substantial support for the amendment among backbench Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist MP’s.

“We are seeking support from MP’s of all parties and hope to mobilise enough support from backbenchers to get this amendment carried”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage! “We urge people to write to their MP’s requesting them to support this amendment.

“Even if our amendment is not successful, getting it debated in Parliament will help raise awareness about antigay attacks.”

The OutRage! amendment extends the Bill’s new penalties for racist attacks to crimes of violence against lesbians and gay men, providing tougher sentences for prejudice-motivated offences.

“We believe all hate crimes should be treated with equal severity”, said Tatchell. “As well as cracking down on racial violence, the law also needs to come down heavily on queer-bashing assaults.”

“A survey by Stonewall published in 1996 showed that 34% of gay men and 24% of lesbians had experienced violence within the past five years because of their sexuality”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “One in four of those attacked had to seek medical attention; and 79% suffered stress or fear following the attack.

“Other research, including a Home Office report, has found similar or even higher figures. Extrapolating these results would suggest that throughout the U.K. over a million gay people have suffered homophobic violence. Homophobic hate crimes wreck lives. Lesbian and gay people deserve the same protection as ethnic minorities. All perpetrators of crimes of prejudice should be punished with equal severity”, said Hunt.

Tatchell fights to defend the right to peaceful protest

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage! plans to make his court hearing a “civil liberties test case” when he appears at Canterbury Magistrates Court this Friday, 15th May, at 9:45 a.m..

He is calling for the repeal of the law under which he has been charged, arguing that “it gives the Church privileged immunity from public protest and dissent”.

Tatchell was originally charged with “violent behaviour”. This week, that charge was dropped by the prosecution: and he is now being charged with “indecent behaviour” in a church, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860. The prosecution claims that any form of unseemly behaviour in a church is “indecent” under the terms of the Act.

The charge against Tatchell arises from OutRage!’s Easter Sunday protest in Canterbury Cathedral on 12th April 1998. Interrupting the sermon of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tatchell condemned Dr. Carey’s support for discrimination against lesbian and gay people with respect to employment, the age of consent, fostering and marriage.

Tatchell plans to summons the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral to testify in his defence.

“I will fight the prosecution on the issue of free speech”, said Tatchell. “The right to peaceful protest does not stop at the door of a Cathedral.

“Under this ancient law, the Church has privileged protection against protest. No other institution is granted these special, sweeping powers to suppress dissent. It should not be a crime to criticise the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Cathedral.

“What is at stake in this case is the precious, hard-won freedom to demonstrate. If the prosecution win, it will be a defeat for civil liberties and a victory for authoritarianism.

“The restrictions on the right to protest under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act are incompatible with a democratic society and should be repealed”, said Mr. Tatchell.

DEFENCE FUND APPEAL

OutRage! is appealing for contributions to the Peter Tatchell Defence Fund.

“We need financial help to fight this prosecution”, said David Allison of OutRage!. “Peter’s case is an important test of civil liberties. We must defend the right to peaceful protest and resist this attempt to stifle freedom of speech”.

Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!” and sent to:
OutRage!, P.O. Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT

Update
At the preliminary hearing on 15th May, the case was adjourned till 5th June.

At the hearing on 5th June, the case further was adjourned till 12th June.

OutRage! seeks to protect for Sexual and Religious Minorities

Proposed Amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill

OutRage! is proposing an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would extend the tough new penalties for race hate crimes to crimes of prejudice against homosexuals and religious believers.

The amendment, to Section 68 of the Bill, will be tabled by MP’s in the Committee stage, with cross-party support.

Sections 22-26 and 68 of the Bill empower the courts to impose harsher sentences on those convicted of crimes against ethnic minorities, where there is evidence that the crime was motivated by race hatred.

The OutRage! amendment, drafted by Peter Tatchell, would also introduce tougher sentences in cases of hate-inspired attacks on people because of their homosexuality or religion.

“We believe that all hate crimes should be treated with equal severity”, said Huw Williams.

“As well as cracking down on racial violence, the law also needs to come down heavily on the perpetrators of prejudice-motivated assaults on religious and sexual minorities”.

Whilst OutRage! is opposing crimes of prejudice against people of faith, religious supporters in the House of Lords recently succeeded in amending the Human Rights Bill to exempt religious institutions from the Bill’s anti-discrimination provisions. This will allow religious authorities to continue to discriminate against lesbians and gay men.

“While OutRage! is campaigning to stop the victimisation of religious minorities, the churches are fighting to maintain the right to discriminate against homosexuals”, said Williams.

“We argue that ALL forms of prejudice are wrong, but religious leaders insist that denying equal treatment to gay people is right.

“Despite Christian, Muslim and Jewish opposition to homosexual human-rights, OutRage! will continue to support equality for people of all faiths and sexualities.”

‘16 is not enough! Scrap ALL antigay laws!

Call for “VIGIL FOR EQUALITY” at House of Commons

OutRage! is proposing a mass “Vigil for Equality” outside the House of Commons on the night MP’s vote on equalising the age of consent.

It is suggesting that the new Equality Alliance should organise a huge vigil in front of Parliament, similar to the lobby in 1994; and is proposing that the theme of the protest should be “16 is not enough! Scrap ALL antigay laws!”.

“Winning an equal age of consent will be an important advance”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “But it will still leave many other homophobic laws unchanged.

“We have got to show the Labour Government that we won’t be content merely with an equal age of consent. ALL antigay laws must go. We will not settle for anything less than TOTAL EQUALITY.

“The politicans must not be allowed to limit gay rights to the single issue of the age of consent. We should use the vote for 16 to push forward the wider agenda of full human rights.

“Many MP’s think we will be content if they just equalise the age of consent. That is most assuredly not the case. We won’t be satisfied until every discriminatory law is abolished. It is vital the lesbian and gay community tells Parliament that one reform is not enough. Equality at 16 has got to be the first step in a rolling programme of homosexual law reform”, said Hunt.

OutRage! wants the protest outside Parliament on the night of the vote to highlight six key civil rights demands:

  1. the repeal of ALL discriminatory sexual offences
    – buggery, gross indecency, soliciting and procuring;
  2. legal recognition and rights for lesbian and gay couples;
  3. the outlawing of discrimination based on sexual orientation;
  4. repeal of Section 28 and the inclusion of lesbian and gay sexuality within sex education lessons in schools;
  5. an end to the ban on homosexuals in the armed forces;
  6. affirmation of gay parenting rights, including equality in child custody orders, fostering, adoption, and access to donor insemination services.

Justin Fashanu destroyed by homophobia

“Justin’s death is a tragedy. He was a sincere, warm-hearted person who was destroyed by homophobia, Christian fundamentalism, and a lack of support from fellow football players and managers”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who knew Fashanu from the early 1980’s.

Tatchell recalls: “We met at the London gay nightclub ‘Heaven’ in 1982. I had been selected as the Labour candidate for Bermondsey, and he had recently transferred to Nottingham Forest for £ 1 million. We became close friends for the next ten years.

“Even though he was not open about being gay in the early 1980’s, we went out together to nightclubs, parties, family celebrations and public events where Justin was the guest of honour. He knew the press might be there. It was almost as if he was challenging the tabloids to expose him.

“In the early 80’s Justin often phoned me, and we frequently discussed the problems he was having at Nottingham Forest and his difficulties in coping with his homosexuality.

“The pros and cons of coming out were a frequent subject of conversation. Although I helped him come to terms with being gay, it was only a temporary respite. When his football career went on the slide, he turned to evangelical Christianity. In the long-term, that caused him immense grief.

“Justin was very distressed by his treatment at Nottingham Forest. He felt that Brian Clough treated him badly and never gave him proper support. Not surprisingly, his on-the-pitch peformance nose-dived.

“Becoming a born-again Christian screwed up his life. He became very confused and unhappy abour his sexuality. While publicly proclaiming Christian celibacy, he resorted to furtive gay sex. That made it impossible for him to have a stable gay relationship.

“He was devastated when his brother John publicly denounced him after he came out. Justin never got over that betrayal”.

Tatchell attacks prosecution as a waste of public money

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has condemned his prosecution over OutRage!’s Canterbury Cathedral protest as “a violation of the right to peaceful protest and an extravagant waste of police and court resources, which has already cost Canterbury taxpayers thousands of pounds”.

“This money would be better spent on health and education, or on fighting serious crimes like murders, rapes and muggings”, said Peter Tatchell.

He has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for “refusing to state the public interest grounds for proceeding with my case, and for going ahead with the prosecution despite the refusal of Cathedral authorities to press charges against me”.

Tatchell is due to appear in Canterbury Magistrates Court this Friday, 5th June, at 10:30 a.m..

“No Cathedral clergy or adminstrators are appearing as prosecution witnesses. All have declined to support the charges against me. Why is the prosecution going ahead if church officials are not backing it?

“Before any court case can prooceed, the Crown Prosecution Service must establish that it is in the public interest. I staged a brief, peaceful protest. There is no evidence that I am a menace or a threat to the public. I have given a solemn undertaking that I will not disrupt any further services in Canterbury Cathedral.

“Despite my repeated requests, the Crown Prosecution Service has refused to state the public interest grounds for proceeding against me.

“This prosecution has already expended a huge amount of public resources that could be spent on fighting serious crimes. If it goes to full trial, my case will be a massive financial burden on the taxpayers of Canterbury. I doubt they want to see their money spent on a frivolous prosecution.”

Mr. Tatchell is charged with “indecent behaviour” in a church, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 (formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551). The prosecution claims that any disruptive behaviour in a church is “indecent” under the terms of the Act.

“I will fight the prosecution on the issue of free speech”, said Tatchell. “The right to peaceful protest does not stop at the door of a Cathedral.”

Tatchell plans to witness summons the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral to testify in his defence.

DEFENCE FUND APPEAL

OutRage! is appealing for contributions to the Peter Tatchell Defence Fund.

“We need financial help to fight this prosecution”, said David Allison of OutRage!. “Peter’s case is an important test of civil liberties. We must defend the right to peaceful protest and resist this attempt to stifle freedom of speech”.

Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!” and sent to:
OutRage!, P.O. Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT