|For the personal attention of:||The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, MP, |
10, Downing Street.
|CC:||Hilary Armstrong, Min. for Local Gov.t and Housing; |
Tony Banks, Minister for Sport;
David Blunkett, S.S. for Education & Employment;
Dr. Jack Cunningham, Minister for the Cabinet Office;
Dr. Mo Mowlam, S.S. for Northern Ireland;
Clare Short, S.S. for International Development;
Chris Smith, S.S. for Culture, Media & Sport;
Jack Straw, Home Secretary.
|Date:||21st July, 1999.|
Dear Mr. Blair,
Following the Soho bombing, OutRage! wrote to Jack Straw (3rd May) and David Blunkett (25th May), appealing for urgent Government action to eradicate homophobic discrimination.
You may recall your own message to London's Pride celebrations in 1997, read by Chris Smith and televised, in which you stated: "The New Labour Government wants to build a New Britain, free from discrimination. I want to assure you of my commitment to achieving such a free society. ... Let us be proud of what we are, of who we are, and of what we can achieve in the months to come for equality and justice for us all". -- I was therefore greatly surprised to be told by your office last week that, since your "message of support" to this year's Pride was classed as a personal communication, the text could not be released! However, I have since learned with dismay that, despite asserting that "all decent-minded people believe ... that members of Britain's minority communities have the right to live full lives, free from prejudice, and without fear of attack", it makes no mention of legislative reform in any area.
|1 -- What legislative reforms on gay issues is the Government currently prepared to support?|
Of the two replies, that from the DfEE (6th July) has the greater cosmetic comfort factor: reaffirming that Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 has never applied to the governing bodies or staff of schools and that schools can cover gay and lesbian issues if they choose to do so, (as stated in the previous administration's guidance document to schools, circular number 5/94, Education Act 1993: Sex Education in Schools); and stating that, since "equality of opportunity in employment is imperative and all discrimination is unacceptable", L/G/B/T (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) teachers should feel free to be seen as positive rôle models and disclose their sexuality.
Sadly it appears that David Blunkett does not yet feel able to issue a public proclamation of encouragement to all school governors and staff, (following the exemplary initiative by Tony Banks in May for gay football players to come out); there is currently no requirement (or even encouragement) for schools to offer a complete, balanced, nonjudgemental syllabus to ensure that all their pupils have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and become well-informed and well-adjusted citizens; and "the issue of homophobic bullying and its unacceptability in schools" has got no further than a consultation document for guidance, (a copy of which the DfEE omitted to consider enclosing).
|2 -- By what legislative mechanism and in what timescale does the Government expect to honour its pledge to repeal Section 28?|
|3 -- 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?|
The reply from the Home Office (23rd June) was somewhat less impressive, failing even to refer to a number of the points we raised, and shamelessly evading others. -
|4 -- Why is the Government promoting antigay violence by avoiding equal action against it?|
|5 -- Why is there no effective coordination between Government Departments at Ministerial level?|
|6 -- 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?|
|7 -- 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?|
|8 -- 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?|
|9 -- Your explanation on these three points would be appreciated.|
While it is apparent from various sources that a number of Ministers display a significant degree of goodwill with regard to building an inclusive, nondiscriminatory society with respect for all, it is patently obvious that there is no coordination and no sense of urgency. Given your stated commitment two years ago to achieving a society free of discrimination and with equality and justice for all, within the coming months, 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. -- Despite social progress in some areas since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, there has been only isolated legislative tinkering. How much untold human misery will be caused (including deaths through suicide, self-neglect, queer-bashing, or bombing) if we have to wait another generation (or even for another General Election) before legislation on gay rights is improved? Other countries can do this: what is stopping Britain?
Section 28: Schools attacked for buying gay sex education packs The Scotsman, 14-November-1999
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