Section 28 and age of consent are next targets for campaigners Campaigners set their sights on anti-`promotion' Section 28

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The Independent Online
ONE ACTIVIST called it "the red meat tossed by Thatcher to the braying back benches" but after more than a decade, Section 28, the anti- gay clause that prevents council promotion of homosexuality, looks set to be the next victory for the gay lobby.

Even as the news conference from the campaign group Stonewall was praising the verdict from the European Court of Human Rights on homosexuals in the armed forces, the campaign had already moved on, in mindset at least, to the next achievable target - the scrapping of Section 28.

Age of consent issues aside, Section 28 remains the most stinging piece of legislation to excise homosexual culture from British life. Devised during the Thatcher administration in the Eighties, Section 28 was to be the legislative stick to beat "loony left" councils at the height of the tabloid war against councils trying to promote same-sex relationships.

Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act prohibits "the intentional promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities and "the teaching of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship" by local education authorities.

Although the legislation only covers local education authorities, not schools, many teachers and governors believe that it is unlawful to discuss homosexuality in schools. This, say Stonewall, has fostered confusion in school staff rooms and undermined any development of anti-homophobic school policies at a time when school race policies have made great strides.

Section 28, according to Roger Goode, a spokesman for Stonewall, will now be the main focus for pressure groups with the aim, tacitly backed by the Government, of ensuring an amendment to any local government legislation contained in the next Queen's Speech.

Mr Goode said: "Section 28 was the worst piece of legislation since the war. It was intended as an insult to gays and a slap down for Labour councils. We are now aiming to have it repealed at the first legislative opportunity although I imagine the Tory Lords will put up a pretty tough fight if the age of consent vote was anything to go by. It was a wretched example of what politicians do when they are completely out of control with a huge majority - they pick on minorities with impunity."

Cary James, editor of the Pink Paper, concurred and said the movement was turning its attention towards "the last great dinosaur".