Tory peers, led by Baroness Young, launched a fresh attack on government plans to repeal Section 28 last night, claiming that new guidelines to replace the controversial clause promoted homosexuality.
Baroness Young said she had received thousands of letters "begging" her to remain firm in her opposition to the new guidelines. While she approved plans to promote marriage, she said it was wrong to put "stable relationships" on an equal footing.
Under the new guidelines, introduced by the Government as an amendment to the Learning and Skill Bill, children would be required to "learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society".
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Secretary, drafted the guidelines with the help of bishops in a bid to enable the repeal of Section 28. after an earlier defeat by peers over the issue. Bishops had been concerned about the bullying of children as a result of the section of the Local Government Act which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.
But Baroness Young insisted: "I am speaking up for the overwhelming majority of people in this country when I stress that stable relationships which include homosexual relationships are not the equivalent to marriage."
She claimed the fact that Stonewall, the gay rights group, welcomed the guidelines "underlined her point".
However, opening a third reading debate, Baroness Blackstone, an Education minister, said the amendment was brought forward to address "fears and concerns" which had resurfaced as a result of government plans to repeal Section 28.
The guidelines would promote the institutions of marriage but also recognise that there were "strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage". She said: "Schools are a place for children to learn, not to be ostracised."
There was a "complete misunderstanding" that the guidelines would promote homosexuality because they clearly stated that teachers should not promote any sexual activity.
"The Government regards marriage as a key institution in society. But there are other types of relationships that can be successful and stable.
"No government can ignore such reality but it does not mean that we are seeking to change public morality," she said.
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