Gay rights are not a distraction

18th August 2000 at 01:00

READING through Andrew Cunningham's reasoning for why Section 28 should be retained (TES August 4), I was almost expecting him to come out with that old chestnut, some of my best friends are gayblackJewish, I just don't want them living next door to me!

Dr Cunningham believes the human rights of a section of society to be a side issue which might sidetrack a pupil's education. Which, of course, is obviously more important than implicitly condoning homophobia by not addressing it and leaving any gaylesbian pupils in no doubt as to their second-class status.

Let me just state a few facts, Dr Cunningham. Dealing with the topic of homosexuality in schools has absolutely nothing to do with promotion. No sensible teacher would promote it as a "come on in, the water's lovely" campaign. Sexuality is not something you choose like a new brand of washing powder - it is simply part of your make-up, as natural to you as your skin colour.

The word promotion was introduced into the equation as a clever, but immoral trick by a very right-wing Tory government, cynically playing on the prejudices of many people who unfortunately, don't know any better.

Furthermore, your interpretation of the results of the Brian Souter-inspired referendum showing that 82 per cent of Scots were against the repeal is simply naive.

The referendum was about as undemocratic and unrepresentative as it could possibly be. There were none of the usual controls that proper and fair elections have built into them, so the statistics you quote are meaningess.

You rightfully acknowledge that many teenagers are prejudiced against homosexuality, yet you feel adolescence is not the time to eradicate that prejudice. Most of them will grow out of it anyway. Oh, really?

It doesn't seem to me that you have, nor the majority of parents you claim to know who apparently show very little enthusiasm for repeal. Is your summation of parental opinion a valid yardstick for how we go about dealing with human rights issues? If so, would it then be equally acceptable to introduce discriminatory policies into the classroom if parents in a particular area said only the rights of white pupils should be promoted?

I am not suggesting that teachers abandon the normal curriculum to deal with this issue. What I am saying is that Section 28 is a pernicious piece of legislation that does potential real damage to all pupils by saying to heterosexual pupils that their homosexual peers are inferior.

The parallels between this and fascism should be readily apparent. If we don't have equal human rights for all our citizens regardless of their sexuality, then how far are we from Hitler's ideals?

And finally, Dr Cunningham, as a parent, just consider for the briefest of moments, the possibility that one of your own children might turn out to be gay. Exactly how would you want them to feel during their adolescence?

Exactly how would you want them to be treated by their classmates, their teachers and society at large?

Colin Sowter

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