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Government U-turn on gay rights agenda

Section 28 to be (re)introduced in our schools? Iman Qureshi investigates

Mon, 05 Dec 2011 14:08:03 GMT | Updated 3 years today

Yesterday's report in the Telegraph led to much frenzy on twitter and in the blogosphere about the "reintroduction of Section 28."


Absolutely aghast that such an atrocious and unjust dictum could come back into force, I simply had to look it up for myself.  Sure enough, when I looked at The Model Free School Funding Agreement, the similarities between these new stipulations and the former Section 28 were glaring:


"The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the Academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its important for family life and for bringing up children."


If it wasn't so sinister, I'd perhaps be able to appreciate the laughable irony of this directive falling under Clause 28 in the Model Free School Funding Agreement.


The concept of free schools is bad enough: removing the power of local authorities and allowing for any private organisation or group (be they religious or otherwise prejudiced) to crowbar in whatever biased education, or one lacking in cultural/religious diversity, they feel suits their agenda best. But to insist that these schools promote the institution of marriage, rather than safe responsible sex or the importance of appreciating and accepting alternative family models is absolutely disgraceful.


When DIVA contacted Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT, she sent back the simple furious response: "We are appalled and wonder what Cameron has made of it given his support for LGB rights."


Her co-chair Tony Fenwick expressed similar sentiments: "If the government minister wants to reintroduce Section 28 through covert means, that is outrageous."


Not only is it shameful that the government insists on promoting the value of marriage when it isn't even a right afforded to all its citizens - despite David Cameron's smarmy pseudo-sincere pledges to LGB people - but it also does disservice to many other family models in the UK.


Perhaps we should remind Minister for Education Mr Gove and his ConDem cohorts that the term marriage does not include civil partnerships, same sex relationships, single parents - or event a stable heterosexual couple who choose not to marry for their own personal reasons. (Though the cynic in me is quite sure that he needs no reminder of this fact.)


Whether it's a clever and insidious ploy to generate conservative community interest or encourage religious groups to have a hand in the free schooling initiative, or whether it's simply a heinous oversight has yet to be seen.


One thing is certain however, and that is, if these stipulations are enforced and that free schools will be at risk of losing their funding if they do not comply with them, then we are giving our children up to be taught a ludicrous and moronic Victorian ideal of family, which excludes, subjugates and denigrates vast sections of contemporary British society.


It is a gross injustice to defecate on the love of same-sex couples, or the efforts of a single parent. It is an even grosser injustice to tell the children of those families that their parents have somehow failed them, that their family is somehow not good enough; that their lives are not "normal".


Feminist blogger and Twitter user @Sianuskha tweeted: "Having grown up with gay parents under Section 28 I can confirm that pushing marriage alienates and isolates kids from other types of families."


Just imagine how much bullying this dictum would perpetuate, how much self-hatred, or resentment towards parents that would create amongst children.


Like it or not, Mr Gove, these families exist and will continue to exist until the end of time (unless you continue on this path and revoke our hard won rights of equality - though, perhaps that is your intention), and you have to deal with it. But then, perhaps you would like a society where some children are bullied and some families are somehow less equal than others.


But surely a more sensible way to go about it would be to educate children about how all families are different, about how actually, a person with a penis is not always essential to raising a child, about how one need not wear a white dress and walk down an aisle and sign some trite contract and claim all the relevant tax benefits - about how it's just as okay to marry, as it is to not get married at all. 

Needless to say there are countless examples of same-sex couples, single parents, or indeed couples who have - horrifically! - not been committed to each other in hallowed states of matrimony, and who have raised perfectly functional children.


When will people understand that homosexuality is not the problem - rather it's homophobia that blights decent people's lives? It's only when we stop looking at marriage as a "normal" way of life, that we can begin to wipe out many families' and peoples' reservations about same-sex relationships or single parents. It's about time that we learn that the kids ARE alright. It's the grown-ups who are all messed up.

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