Equality campaigners in Scotland warned that an anti-gay educational ban repealed in 2000 (called Section 28) could be introduced by ‘stealth’ as an add on to Scotland’s gay marriage bill.
Scotland for Marriage, an anti-equality campaign group, principally backed by the Catholic Church and the disgraced Cardinal O’Brien, said that if marriage equality is introduced, teachers need to be ‘protected’ from being ‘forced’ to teach about gay relationships.
Rather, they should in fact have the ‘freedom’ to tell young Scots that they are ‘damaging’.
The group demands that educational material saying gay relationships ‘harmful, risky and dangerous’ and lead to ‘premature death’ should be promoted.
Peter Kearney, spokesperson for Scotland for Marriage, listed, during an STV interview, the following demands to the Scottish government:
Encourage schools to only teach about heterosexual marriage
- Give teachers a right to tell children that same-sex relationships are wrong
- Discourage schools from using materials that include LGBT people
- Give teachers a right to refuse to use materials that include LGBT people
- Give parents a new right to opt their children out of any lessons that mention same-sex relationships
- Ban primary schools from mentioning same-sex marriage
- Force other schools to treat same-sex marriage as a ‘controversial’ issue
Brian Souter, a supporter of Scotland for Marriage and co-founder of Stagecoach a multinational transport company, said that teachers who oppose gay marriage need ‘protections’ from being forced to ‘teach this new relationship’.
When Souter was asked about his leading role in the campaign against repealing Section 28 (Keep the Clause campaign) he argued ‘that was to do with what we taught in schools and that is what I think the issue’s about’.
Section 28 was introduced by the Conservative Thatcher government in 1988, stipulated that local authorities should ‘not intentionally promote homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.
The law, which was widely criticized by educational and rights group, meant schools and teachers felt unable to effectively tackle homophobic bullying and prejudice, and failed to provide a fully inclusive educational environment for LGBT young people.
The law was repealed by the Scottish parliament in 2000, and the rest of the UK in 2003.
Tom French, of Scottish Equality Network, said; ‘We are deeply concerned that opponents of same-sex marriage are attempting to reintroduce Section 28 style discrimination back into Scotland’s schools.
‘This would roll back equality and have a damaging effect on young people and the wider education system.
‘We firmly believe that school should be a welcoming environment for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation or family situation.
‘Schools have a duty of care to their pupils and it would be wrong to allow discrimination against LGBT people in the education system’.
Campaigners slammed Scotland for Marriage arguments as false, scaremongering and similar to those made during the Keep the Clause campaign, which wrongly stated that if Section 28 was repealed inappropriate materials would be used in schools with a damaging effect on young people.
Various studies show that twelve years since Section 28 was repealed Scottish schools have become more inclusive and better able to tackle issues like homophobic bullying.
Campaigners warn that any attempts to reintroduce Section 28 style discrimination would be a major setback to the progress made on LGBT equality, and would worsen homophobic bullying in schools.
A recent study by LGBT Youth Scotland, Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People (2012), which found that 69% of LGBT young people had been the victim of homophobic bullying in Scotland’s schools, and 64% of young people described school as a ‘bad’ experience for LGBT people.
Campaigners argue that far from going back to Section 28 style legislation, Scotland needs the Scottish Government to do more to make schools more inclusive, and to tackle homophobic bullying.
The Scottish Government is currently running a public consultation on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland.
The consultation closes on Wednesday 20 March and a final version of the bill is expected to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the summer.