British lesbians protest against Section 28
With lesbians managing to level up resistance during protests courtesy of the Lesbian Avengers in the early 1990s, our lesbian compatriots from across the pond were doing their part as they fought Section 28 in 1988.
At that time, the LGBT community were up in arms against the Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988 in the United Kingdom that was largely being pushed by the Thatcher government.
As a result, a number of lesbians not only stormed the BBC network, they also abseiled on to the gallery floor of Parliament in protest.
What is Section 28?
The trouble with Section 28 all started as backlash to the growing awareness of LGBT equality during that period.
Thanks to a children’s book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin written by Susanne Bösche and local governmental support given to LGBT groups, the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher had the wherewithal to hammer the Labor Party.
The Conservative Party– through its leading proponent, Jill Knight– managed to include Clause 28 (which it was called before it became a law) in the Local Government Bill in 1988.
This clause stated that:
A local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
To summarize, Clause 28 prevented local governments from funding or supporting any effort to help the LGBT community supposedly as “promotion” of homosexuality because this was seen as “anti-family.”
Protests against Section 28
This, of course, set off massive demonstrations by the LGBT community on the streets. On a side note, it also led to British actor Ian McKellen’s coming out in protest against the clause.
Lesbians were at the forefront of the protests, with some of them taking more radical actions.
On February 2, a group of LGBT protestors had gained accessed to the public gallery at the House of Lords to remonstrate the parliamentarians during their debate of the bill.
As this was happening, four lesbians abseiled down to the chamber shouting, “Lesbians are out!” Fortunately, during the chaos, two of the abseilers were able to walk out of the chamber afterwards.
On March 8, five lesbians chained themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace on the 70th anniversary of Suffragettes who had done the same. They were joined by other protestors in period costumes.
On May 23, (the day before Clause 28 was enacted into law as Section 28), several lesbians stormed the BBC studio where they were shooting the Six O’Clock News.
One lesbian chained herself to TV presenter Sue Lawley’s desk while another one was restrained by Nicholas Witchell.
Despite the protests, Section 28 became law on May 24.
Aftermath of Section 28
Fortunately, Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in June 2000 and the rest of the United Kingdom in November 2003.
But while there’s not much remembrance of those protests, a group of LGBT protestors– the Sexual Avengers– recently decided to put a plaque at the House of Lords to commemorate the events.
The plaque reads:
Queer heritage: Protesting against Section 28 that discriminated against homosexuality, lesbians abseiled into the House of Lords, 2 February 1988
“The House of Lords represents the powerful who ignore the interests of the few, so this is about visibility, creating something that’s impossible to ignore– a rupture in the impenetrable powerhouse,” Ariana Jordão, one of the activists, told Pink News.
The plaque was later taken down by the House of Lords.
For a blast from the past, check out the news videos below on the said events:
The invasion of BBC
Abseiling at the House of Lords