A law forbidding the "promotion" of homosexuality was removed from the British statutes Thursday following more than a decade of protests by gay activists. "Today's repeal of Section 28 is a triumph for 21st-century tolerance over 19th-century prejudice," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall. The law, which barred local government councils from "promoting" homosexuality, was the subject of protests from the moment it was introduced under Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1988. It was devised to deal with concerns over homosexual content in sex education but was condemned by campaigners as discriminatory. Its repeal was one of the campaign promises of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party when it ousted the Conservatives in 1997.
Government officials said the law inhibits many school and college authorities from counseling gay and lesbian students and makes it difficult for teachers to stop people from harassing gay students. The government welcomed the law's disappearance as a new Local Government Act became law Thursday. "The government is pleased that parliament has taken advantage of this opportunity to remove this unnecessary and offensive piece of legislation, which has fueled prejudice and stigmatized homosexuality, from the statute book," said Nick Raynsford, minister for local government.