“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”.
Today marks the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. It seems like lazy writing to say she was divisive. It’s a word I’ve read a thousand times in the 9 days since her death. During this period, I’ve witnessed street parties, national mourning, a very long yet well crafted documentary in Sweden and watched people tear each other apart on social media discussing her legacy and the legitimacy of rejoicing at someone’s death. I’ve also made a joke about respectfully halting production of my S&M film The Iron Lady Garden.
It’s fair to say, as a child of the 70s I was never a fan. Policies implemented under her leadership impacted directly on my quality of life. Poverty was rife in the West Lothian New Town of Livingston with high unemployment and questionable avenues to education.
In 1988 however, Thatcher led on one policy that would forever impact my life. Section 28.
Introduced during the AIDS epidemic as part of the Local Government Act, Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.
Short lived and repealed in 2003, the legislation was massively controversial, meaning that teachers in schools in Scotland, England and Wales faced fear of revealing their own homosexuality or discussing alternative sexual orientations as an acceptable way of life. It was never illegal to do so, though perpetrators of these “offenses” faced disciplinary action and job uncertainty.
For many gay men of my generation, Thatcher will always be considered a hate figure. Today however, I choose to salute her.
Not because of any misinformed loyalty to her or because she was one of only a few conservative politicians to vote in favour of the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967, but because of this:
Section 28 was one of the most high profile attacks on the LGBT community carried out since the final solution. It mobilized the LGBT community to get together and make a lot of noise about the infringements of gay rights. It caused a national uproar and guaranteed homophobic front-page coverage of nearly every tabloid newspaper in the UK. It got people talking and it got the LGBT community shouting. We were not happy. Things had to change.
In the 25 years since the introduction of Section 28, LGBT equality has come on leaps and bounds thanks to the tireless campaigning from groups such as Stonewall, the Equality Network, Outrage and many more.
2001 seen the implementation of an equal age of consent regardless of sexual orientation, the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 gave same sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage and this year, Scottish and British parliament are both progressing laws to legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland, England and Wales. Not bad for a quarter of a century.
Without a doubt, Thatcher changed the world.
It seems fitting that for a policy that impacted so widely on education to quote Newton’s third law of motion:
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
To me, this cements her most important legacy.
I’ll leave you with a quote she gave to a series of small businesses in 1988. I much prefer it in the context of this article.
“I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain”.