Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gandalf Not Among Thatcher's Mourners

On his blog, famed actor Sir Ian McKellan has reminded everyone that Maggie Thatcher's final contribution to British politics was her unsuccessful vote to prevent the repeal of the infamous Section 28.

Introduced by Thatcher's government in 1988, Section 28 mandated that local British authorities "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

Britain's first anti-gay law in over 100 years caused panic in the LGBT community at the time.  It resulted in many gay-oriented student support groups at schools and colleges across the U.K. to close or self-censor their activities in fear that they could breach the Act. 

In the months prior to introduction of the measure, Thatcher appeased to her conservative base by openly mocking people who defended the right to be gay, insinuating that there was no such right.  During Thatcher's term, arrests and convictions for consenting same-sex behavior rocketed, as did queer bashing violence and murder, according to leading British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Ian McLellan had this to say about Section 28 and its stain on Thatcher's legacy:

Lest we forget, this nasty, brutish and short measure of the third Thatcher administration, was designed to slander homosexuality, by prohibiting state schools from discussing positively gay people and our “pretended family relations”. Opposition to Section 28 galvanised a new generation of activists who joined with long-time campaigners for equality.  Stonewall UK was founded to repeal Section 28 and pluck older rotten anti-gay legislation from the constitutional tree. This has taken two decades to achieve.

Pathetically, in her dotage, Baroness Thatcher was led by her supporters into the House of Lords to vote against Section 28′s repeal: her final contribution to UK politics. She dies too early to oppose Parliament’s inevitable acceptance of same–gender marriage.

During his 2009 election campaign, current British Prime Minister David Cameron (a longtime supporter of Section 28) finally apologized for the Conservative Party's introducing the law, saying that it was a mistake and had been offensive to gay people.

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