20 Years Since the Repeal of Section 28

17 Nov 2023
Section 28 text from 1988 Local Government Act

The 18th of November 2023 marks a significant milestone in the journey towards LGBTQ+ rights in the United Kingdom – the 20th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28. Introduced under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in 1988, this controversial and dangerous legislative amendment to the Local Government Act sought to suppress the "promotion of homosexuality" within schools and local authorities. The repeal, moved by Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey MP, stands as a testament to progress, but also serves as a stark reminder of persistent challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Section 28, enacted on the 24th of March 1988, cast a shadow over the educational landscape for 15 years. Its repressive nature stifled open discussions and understanding of diverse sexual orientations, leaving a lasting impact on generations. The Liberal Democrats, from the 1990s onwards, consistently advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, with a clear and progressive stance that included the explicit commitment to repeal Section 28 in their 1997 election manifesto.

In 2003, after 15 years of campaigning and successive defeats in the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrats were the first to introduce legislation to repeal the act with a clause introduced by now-party leader Ed Davey. The revised Local Government Act, receiving Royal Assent on 18 September 2003 came into effect two months later on 18 November 2003, marking the end of this draconian era.

"We need the protection of such rights in the framework of law and, sometimes, in the framework of the constitution."

Sir Ed Davey MP, 2003

In Scotland, the repeal of what was called Section 2a there came 3 years earlier when the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition faced down a brutal campaign to Keep the Clause which was run by Stagecoach founder Brian Souter.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Section 28's repeal, it is essential to acknowledge the progress made in LGBTQ+ rights. However, the impact of Section 28 still lingers, evident in the escalating hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. The Liberal Democrats' commitment to inclusivity remains unwavering, with a clear recognition that the journey towards equality is far from over.

"I am proud to have moved the clause that abolished Section 28 once and for all. But we still have so far to go."

Sir Ed Davey MP speaking to PinkNews in November 2019

The journey from Section 28 to its repeal underscores that our work isn't complete. The 20th anniversary serves as a call to recommit to building an inclusive society, particularly amidst the growing transphobia promoted by far-right groups and media. Let this milestone inspire further action towards a society where everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, can live without discrimination and prejudice.

The Liberal Democrats, as the UK's leading political party on LGBTQ+ equality issues, reaffirm their dedication to developing and promoting progressive policies, campaigns, and championing the voices of diverse communities both outside and within the wider party.

Ed Davey and campaigners at Pride in London
Originally published: 17 November 2023
Revised: 08:50, 18 November 2023

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