OutRage! has written to Scotland’s First Minister, Donald Dewar, urging him to include in the Bill for the repeal of Section 28 legally-binding guidelines on the teaching of sexuality issues in schools.
OutRage! says the guidelines are necessary to reassure anxious parents and refute the campaign of misinformation being peddled by Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause lobby.
A letter has been sent by OutRage! to Donald Dewar and Wendy Alexander at the Scottish Executive, proposing the following guidelines for inclusion in an amended Section 28 repeal Bill. — Schools should not promote or encourage any form of sexuality.
All sexual orientations must be discussed in an honest, factual manner.
Pupils should be offered practical advice on how to refuse and report unwanted sexual advances, practise safer sex to stop the spread of HIV, and how to sustain, happy, fulfilling relationships.
There must be a legal obligation on schools to educate students to make responsible sexual and emotional choices based on mutual consent, respect, and love.
Teachers should be required to challenge prejudiced, intolerant antigay attitudes, combat homophobic teasing and bullying, and provide supportive advice and counselling to vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils.
The aim must be to encourage understanding and acceptance of other people –heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual– and to create a caring, compassionate society that values and appreciates everyone.
“I challenge Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause campaigners to disagree with anything in our proposed guidelines. If they accept this compromise, I am ready to work with them to press Donald Dewar to amend the Section 28 Bill”, said Mr. Tatchell.
270 days after the April Bomb, and after 1000 days of inaction by New Labour, OutRage! publishes a 10-point reply sent to the Home Secretary, demanding progress.
For the personal attention of:
The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP,
The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, MP,
10, Downing Street.
The Rt. Hon. Dr. Mowlam, MP,
Minister for the Cabinet Office.
19th December, 1999.
Dear Mr. Straw,
Government Action for Freedom from Discrimination
Thank you for your informative letter dated the 22nd November in response to the OutRage! fax sent on the 21st July to the Prime Minister, (from whom we have had no direct reply).
I shall relate this reply to the numbered questions in our original enquiry.
1. Legislative reforms
What legislative reforms on gay issues is the Government currently prepared to support?
Your letter restates the Government’s commitment to equalising the age of consent and to the repeal of Section 28, (though with no indication of any timescale); and refers to the Home Office recommendations on Sex Offences to be published next year, (also with no indication of timescale for the enactment of legislation).
- Is this the full extent of the proposed reform?
- Can you indicate timescales for Sex Offences legislation?
- What plans does the Government have to end discrimination against homosexuals in asylum, employment, housing, insurance, partnership and pension law and practice?
2. Section 28
By what legislative mechanism and in what timescale does the Government expect to honour its pledge to repeal Section 28?
Your letter does not mention that the repeal is the subject of Section 68 of the Local Government Bill, (which has already received its second reading).
- Given the delays and constitutional problems which have beset the equalisation of the age of consent, why has the Government included the repeal of §28 in a Bill introduced in the Lords, (in the knowledge that this not only gives the Lords a veto but also precludes application of the Parliament Act to ensure that the will of the Commons prevails)?
- If, as seems quite likely, the Lords successfully oppose the repeal of §28, does the Government intend to reintroduce a repeal Bill in the Commons in 2001, (with the consequence that, if again opposed in the Lords, repeal of §28 could not then occur until 2002)?
- Can you and the Prime Minister give your firm assurance that §28 will be repealed no later than 2002?
3. Sex Education
What is the Government’s intention with regard to placing a legal obligation on schools to provide honest, nonjudgemental information about gay issues (including but not limited to gay sexuality and gay ‘safer sex’), rather than leaving these to the arbitrary whim of individual schools?
We fully agree with your assertion that sex education should be taught not in isolation, but integrated where relevant with the rest of the curriculum, (including PSHE, English, and History).
We will welcome receipt of the promised DfEE guidance document on bullying, (still awaited), and will study it with interest.
We are greatly disappointed, however, that the new PSHE guidelines, while obviously well-intentioned, surely pave the way to hell by being nonstatutory.
- We have a copy of the May-July document QCA/99/405, (Part 2 of which is a draft, nonstatutory framework for PSHE, which, despite repeated enumerations of acceptable diversity, avoids any mention of sexuality: e.g. for Key Stages 3 & 4, “national, regional, religious and ethnic identities within the UK and the need for mutual respect and understanding”). We should be grateful to receive a copy of the definitive document which –we assume from your letter– now exists.
- Is there any valid reason that it would not be possible to make these “guidelines” compulsory?
- Do you agree that making the “guidelines” compulsory would protect the interests of vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils, so that their needs would not be left to the discretion of individual schools and teachers?
4. Antigay violence
Why is the Government promoting antigay violence by avoiding equal action against it?
We note with interest your statement that courts can (optionally) pass higher sentences on perpetrators of homophobic attacks.
- Do you have any statistics which demonstrate the frequency with which the courts pass such higher sentences in practice?
- What research has the Home Office done on the issue of homophobic bias in the Criminal Justice System?
- Does the Government acknowledge that the problem of institutional homophobia is no different from that of institutional racism?
- Is the Government taking the same action to eradicate institutional homophobia from the court, prison and probation services as you mention for the police service?
5. Joined-up Government
Why is there no effective coordination between Government Departments at Ministerial level?
The opening paragraph of your letter states that we requested a coordinated Whitehall response. In fact we went further, lamenting that there had been no evidence of any coordination of policy between Government Departments on the removal of anti-L/G/B/T discrimination, and urging the appointment of a capable individual with sufficient “clout” to be effective. – This point was urged emphatically: yet your reply does not even allude to it.
- Do you and the Prime Minister agree that disparate policy on L/G/B/T issues between Government Departments is confusing for all?
- How do you propose to achieve effective coordination, if not as we suggested?
6. Delivering sensible, pragmatic, unembarrassed sex education
Can you confirm that Clare Short’s sound advice will be taken up by the Home Office and the DfEE, and be incorporated in future legislation?
Your mention of PSHE focuses on bullying, but carefully avoids discussing the content of sex education lessons.
- Will gay and lesbian sex be included on a par with heterosexual sex, and addressed in an honest, factual, nonjudgemental manner? This should include not only the biological mechanics, but also recognition of relationships, friendships, and family groupings. – I assume you are aware of the October ruling by the Law Lords (Fitzpatrick versus Sterling Housing Association) that gay relationships do constitute a family relationship.
- When will the Government act to ensure that HIV prevention in schools includes, as a mandatory requirement, information on safer sex for lesbian and gay pupils?
7. Representative Consultation
Could we please have your agreement that a broad cross-section of the L/G/B/T community will in future be included in all Government consultations on issues relating to sexuality and sexual equality?
We do not dispute your statement that the Home Office Sexual Offences Review currently in progress is “open and inclusive”. Our concern is generic, not confined to this one issue.
- Will you give your firm commitment that all future legislation affecting L/G/B/T issues will involve representative consultation with the L/G/B/T community at all stages, and not exclusive meetings with one privileged group to the exclusion of others?
8. Police Homophobia
Will you now bring forward legally obligatory regulations to root out homophobia in the police and other services, with the same vigour that racism is now to be eradicated?
We welcome your assurance of the Government’s desire to eradicate homophobia within the police, and the review of the selection process to remove discriminatory practices. We were particularly interested to learn of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 1999.
- Please could you send us a copy of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 1999?
- With regard to the equal opportunities policies which you state are now being pursued by the police, and given the fiasco of the European Court of Human Rights ruling in February 1998 that South West Trains were under no legal obligation to enforce their own policy of nondiscrimination: what guarantee is there that these policies will be implemented and enforceable?
9. West End Central / Ian Farmer / Bomb warning
No reassurance was obtained on specific issues regarding the police. … Your explanation on these three points would be appreciated.
Your letter omitted any reference to these items.
- What progress (if any) has been made in investigating the allegations of harassment and intimidation of lesbian and gay officers at Soho’s West End Central police station; and the arrest of Ian Farmer at London Pride (July 1998) and the subsequent mishandling of his complaint?
- Can you give your assurance that, in the event of any future threat (whether terrorist or other) to L/G/B/T citizens, appropriate public warnings will be given to the whole L/G/B/T community through the national media?
10. Action, not Words — Designated Minister for Gay Issues
We would urge you as a priority to address this disastrous deficiency by assigning responsibility to a competent, dynamic and committed individual, who is empowered to ‘kick ass’ and get things moving.
Your letter omitted any reference to this proposal: and our concern remains undiminished.
- If the electorate in New Zealand and Germany can vote transexual MP’s and mayors into office, the British Public can accept “out” gay ministers in the Cabinet, and the Government’s stated intention to abolish discrimination is genuine, what is the obstacle to appointing a coordinator to ensure that Government Departments progress consistently and uniformly towards this goal?
We should be most grateful to receive your point-by-point response to each specific question raised in this letter.
Thanking you in advance, I remain
The Government’s decision to lift the military ban on lesbians and gays is a welcome first step towards eradicating homophobia from the Armed Forces, according to OutRage!.
But OutRage! warns that deeply entrenched homophobic attitudes will continue to force many gay people out of the services, unless the military authorities take tough new action to combat the victimisation of homosexual personnel.
“Homophobic harassment should be a disciplinary offence under the military code”, says OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.
“Military training and education programmes should challenge antigay attitudes and encourage acceptance of homosexual servicemen and women.
“What is needed is an educational campaign –similar to the military’s current efforts against racism– to create a safe, sympathetic environment for gay members of the forces.
“Without these initiatives to stamp out queer-bashing, the military will remain a hostile institution. Despite the ending of the ban on gays, homophobic abuse will pressure many homosexuals to resign.”
OutRage! is calling for a crackdown on homophobia as part of a comprehensive action plan to eradicate all forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from all minority communities.
“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values which they exist to defend. Any toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.
“Human rights awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War under the auspices of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people”, said Mr. Tatchell.
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157624055359002″]
As the Queen arrived for the National Millennium Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral this afternoon, 2nd January, ten OutRage! protesters unfurled a huge banner with the words: “2000 Years of Church Homophobia”.
The protesters had “blood” streaming from their foreheads to symbolise two millennia of church violence and discrimination against gay people.
When the Queen saw the banner, she looked away.
The Queen was joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and over 1000 civic dignitaries. The National Millennium Service was held to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity.
Those arriving for the service responded with mixed reactions to the protest. Several Anglican priests expressed support for a Church apology. Others reacted with homophobic comments, defending the church’s opposition to an equal age of consent.
“They are celebrating 2000 years of Christianity, but we are mourning two millennia of Christian homophobia”, said one of the protesters, John Hunt of OutRage!.
OutRage! is claiming that its demonstration at St. Paul’s is the world’s first gay rights protest of the Third Millennium.
“Over the last 2000 years, church teaching has led to hundreds of millions of homosexuals worldwide being rejected and reviled by their families, driven to depression and suicide, discriminated against by antigay laws, and condemned to death for sodomy”, he said.
“The celebratory, triumphalist tone of the National Millennium Service is an insult to the millions of queers who have suffered as a result of Christian intolerance.
“None of the churches have ever shown any remorse for their persecution of gay people.
“We call on Archbishop Carey to express his regret for the pain inflicted on homosexuals by the church, and urge him to offer his apologies to the gay community.”
Leviticus 20:13 demands that homosexuals be put to death. For over 1800 years, the Christian churches followed this Biblical injunction, sponsoring a Homo Holocaust involving the mass murder of queers.
“We were stoned to death in antiquity, burned alive during the medieval era, and, in this country, hanged from gallows until the mid-nineteenth century.
“This slaughter of homosexuals took place with the official blessing of Dr. Carey’s predecessors, the Archbishops of Canterbury, and of successive Popes and other Christian leaders.”
While the Anglican Church no longer advocates the death penalty for homosexuals, it still preaches a gospel of sexual apartheid, arguing that homosexuality should not be accorded the same moral or legal status as heterosexuality.
“This straight supremacist doctrine is used to justify the treatment of queers as second class citizens. Dr. Carey and most Christians continue to support discrimination against gay people with regard to the age of consent, marriage, employment, Section 28 and fostering and adoption”, said Hunt.
PHOTOS: David Hoffman – 020-188.8.131.52
FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell – 020-74.03.17.90