On Thursday 18 September 2003 the Local Government Bill received Royal Assent and Section 28 was finally taken off the statute books.
On Thursday 10 July 2003 the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act in England and Wales. This followed a similar massive vote in the House of Commons in March.
The repeal of Section 28 had been supported by a coalition of children's organisations, teachers, school governors, local authorities, trades unions, health experts and lesbian, gay and bisexual groups. Almost 25,000 people across the UK signed up to Stonewall's Let's Nail Section 28 campaign, through our online petition, in bars and clubs such as London's G.A.Y and via postcards distributed at events, between friends and through community networks.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prohibited local authorities in England and Wales from "promoting" homosexuality. It also labelled gay family relationships as "pretend".
Anti-gay groups frequently said that Section 28 was used to prevent teaching about gay issues in schools. This was misleading since Section 28 never applied directly to schools, only to local authorities. The Learning and Skills Act 2000 removed any local authority responsibility for sex education. Since that time Section 28 had been redundant legislation. Scotland abolished its equivalent of Section 28 in 2000.
The existence of Section 28 caused confusion and harm. Teachers were confused about what they could and could not say and do, and whether they could help pupils dealing with homophobic bullying and abuse. Local authorities were unclear as to what legitimate services they could provide for lesbian, gay and bisexual members of their communities.
"If Section 28 and the attitudes behind it had remained then society would still believe that gay people are second class citizens and that it is right that they should be treated as second class citizens."
Sir Ian McKellen