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How Section 28 Led to February as LGBT History Month

Posted by Luke on 3rd Feb 2018

February is LGBT History Month 

Can someone please go and hang this from the crane next to Trump's White House:

via GIPHY

We have a whole 28 days to remember the history of the struggle for equal rights, and the amazing contributions of the LGBT+ community.

It's been quite a ride.

From the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s, to the support for the miners' strikes in the 1980s (as wonderfully depicted in the 2014 film 'Pride').

From Oscar Wilde, to Alan Turing, to Ellen DeGeneres.

What's the deal with February though? It's a bit of a drab month. Why not choose a more spring-y month where you might actually see a rainbow?

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Suppression through Section 28

Well in the UK it's all to do with this little piece of now-dead legislation called 'Section 28'.

Section 28 (also known as 'Clause 28') of the 1988 Local Government Act was a law designed to gag teachers. It said that a local authority:

"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."

Though technically it wasn't illegal for teachers to tell you it was OK to be gay, the law had the effect of keeping them quiet and inhibiting anti-discrimination initiatives.

My mother Bea was a teacher in the 1980s. She still spoke out in support of the LGBT+ community in schools. But she remembers the feeling of repression at the time.

No one was actually prosecuted, but student support groups were closed and people self-censored.

The Long road to Repeal  

Anyway, the Scots (always ahead of the game) got rid of the legislation as soon as they got devolution.

The first attempt to repeal the law in England and Wales was in February 2000, but it was defeated by a vote in the House of Lords.

The Commons had another go in early 2003, and Section 28 was finally ditched in July that year.

In 2009, David Cameron apologised for the Conservative party's historic support of Section 28. Of course, he'd backed it himself right up to 2003.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history.

Cameron did subsequently pass the Marriage Act 2013, which legalised gay marriage.


Celebrating LGBT History Month 

LGBT History Month has been celebrated in the UK by the 'School's Out' campaign since 2005. Maybe the significance of February dates to that first repeal attempt in February 2000, or the second attempt in 2003.

The eagle-eyed among you might note the significance of a 28-day month recalling a certain Section 28.

Or maybe it's just a quiet month in the school calendar.

We realised a while back that we needed an LGBT-themed tea towel design at Radical Tea Towel. We'd struggled to come up with something original that struck the right tone.

Then our designer Tim produced this:

LGBTQ Tea Towel

We hope it fits the bill! You can buy it here. Last year, we used some of the proceeds to give a donation to the Proud Trust (they support young LGBT+ people), as part of our annual charity giveaway initiative.

Stay tuned to the emails - we'll be asking you for your suggestions for this year's giveaway very soon.

Happy LGBT History Month!