Government plans to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act were thrown into disarray last night as peers voted against new guidelines to replace the controversial legislation.
The House of Lords voted by 190 votes to 175, a majority of 15, in favour of a Tory amendment that would force schools to highlight the importance of marriage. The vote threw out compromise proposals under which children would be required to learn "the significance of marriage and stable relationships" in society.
Baroness Young, the Tory peer who tabled the amendment, claimed that the plans would have opened the door to the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
After the vote, the Government signalled that it would seek to reverse the defeat when the Learning and Skills Bill returns to the Commons.
Baroness Blackstone, the Education minister, said in a statement that the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Education had agreed that the Tory amendment should be deleted in the Commons.
"The prevention and removal of prejudice is essential to the building of a society in which citizens respect one another," she said. "The Government is not prepared to support legislation which will lead to children from different family backgrounds being stigmatised and could lead to discrimination and bullying."
Ministers had hoped to adopt the legislation as part of the Bill after lengthy discussions between David Blunkett and the Church of England. The Government decided to draft new guidelines after it suffered a heavy defeat when it tried to repeal Section 28 during debate on the Local Government Bill in February. Bishops agreed to co-operate with Mr Blunkett because of their concern about the bullying of children.
But Baroness Young continued to oppose the guidelines, claiming they promoted homosexuality by putting marriage on an "equal footing" with other stable relationships."I am speaking up for the overwhelming majority of people ... when I stress that stable relationships which include homosexual relationships are not the equivalent of marriage," she said during the debate.
The Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, joined her opposition, but the Bishop of Blackburn stressed that the guidelines had the support of Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Government's amendment would prevent bullying and teenage pregnancies, he said.Reuse content