Islington Council has marked the 30th anniversary of the implementation of Section 28 and celebrated the 15th anniversary of its repeal with an event at Islington Town Hall.
Section 28 was a controversial addition to the 1986 Local Government Act, enacted on 24 May 1988, which made it illegal for local authorities to “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” and “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
The section was added to the Local Government Act after copies of a children’s book, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, were discovered in the libraries of several London local authorities, including Islington. The council had copies of Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin available in the borough’s libraries and at the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) managed Isledon Teacher’s Centre.
Alongside fellow councils and the ILEA, Islington Council refused to remove the book, sparking the controversy which resulted in Section 28. Changes in community attitudes and understanding about homosexuality and LGBT families led to the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.
To mark the anniversary of both the enactment and the repeal of Section 28, Islington Council has hosted an event featuring LGBT activist and Stonewall co-founder, Lisa Power, and Just Like Us founder and CEO, Tim Ramsey. The event was attended by Islington North MP, Jeremy Corbyn.
The event also launched a review of the council’s Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) teaching resources for primary schools, which the council provides free of charge to Islington schools. The updated SRE resources will be created in consultation with teachers and pupils, educational organisations, as well as LGBTQ+ young people, to ask what would have been useful for them in primary school SRE and reflect an inclusive approach to sex and relationships education.
In honour of the anniversary, Islington Library and Heritage Service has also obtained a rare copy of the 1983 book, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. The book was eventually phased out of Islington libraries as newer LGBT-inclusive family materials became available. The newly acquired copy is now a key holding in the Heritage Lottery funded Islington’s Pride archive.
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington Council's Executive Member for Community Development, said:
“Islington has a long history of standing up for LGBT rights, of fighting for inclusion, acceptance, and understanding of diversity.
“Many Islington teachers and library staff campaigned against Section 28. And so it is fitting that today we celebrate its repeal by launching further work to provide inclusive learning materials. It’s in imperative that all our young people know that they can express their identity and feel valued – which is why we celebrate the diversity of individuals and families that live, work and learn in Islington.”
Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North said:
"Section 28 was a dark moment in our country’s history. This shameful, homophobic piece of legislation inflicted pain on an entire generation.
"On this 30-year anniversary of Section 28 we should remember the vibrant social movement that opposed and ultimately defeated it. Today, we refocus ourselves on overcoming the injustices still faced by the LGBT community.
Notes to editor:
- Sex and relationships education (SRE) is part of lifelong learning about the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up, relationships, sex, human sexuality and sexual health. SRE aims to give children and young people essential skills for building positive, enjoyable, respectful and non-exploitive relationships and skills to stay safe both on and offline. More more info on SRE, or the services Islington Council offers schools, see https://www.islingtoncs.org/.