Stop Clause 28
Clause 28 of the new Local Government Bill in the UK was passed through the House of Lords by 202 votes to 122 on Mon. 1st February. As soon as the result was announced, three lesbians swooped down on ropes from the gallery frightening the peers before being hustled out.
Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill states "a local authority shall not promote homosexuality or publish material for the promotion of homosexuality." Nor shall the authority "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship by the publication of such material or otherwise." The church also forbids "financial or other assistance" to lesbian and gay groups who at present receive grants from local authorities.
In the past two months great pressure has been applied in an attempt to defeat this clause which is seen by many in Britain as the beginning of the end for gay rights there. Almost as soon as the clause was introduced by Tory MP David Wilshire, a "Stop Clause 28" campaign was launched which brought 700 people to Parliament to lobby MPs in protest. While some Labour MPs have been very vocal in their opposition to the clause, the parties' leadership has been disappointingly silent on the issue. Those on the right of the party believe that the high profile gay rights had, especially at grassroots level, lost them the last election.
On Saturday 9th of January, 8,000 people took part in a protest march through the centre of London. When protestors attempted to enter Downing Street, police arrested 14 people. Later, outside Harmsworth Park, two women were arrested for kissing and when onlookers attempted to prevent this, a further 28 arrests were made.
At the park, the crowd heard a number of speakers including Ken Skeates, the proud father of a lesbian and Chris Smith MP for Islington South and Finsbury who is Britain's only openly gay member of parliament. Linda Bellos, Leader of Lambeth Council, said; "If this becomes law, I shall refuse to implement it" and Helen Dawson of the Association of London Authorities said that they would take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
The Bill will return to the House of Commons before ultimately becoming law. Despite this, protest continues not only in Britain but across Europe. On February 20th, there will be a large Stop Clause 28 Festival in Manchester which is expected to draw a huge crowd. On that day in Dublin, there will be a protest picket outside the British Embassy in Ballsbridge to show our disapproval of this legislation.