Conservative Party Cabinet Minister Nicky Morgan has attacked Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and promised a gay rights conference that her government will look further into tackling discrimination against transgender people.
Addressing the Stonewall conference, Morgan – who recently said that homophobia could be viewed as a sign of political extremism in children – said, “I can’t imagine what a young woman in school, who thought she might be a lesbian, was feeling in May 1988 when the government of the day passed a pernicious law, making it harder for schools to tackle homophobic bullying.
“A law which said that any family relationship she might have was ‘pretend’. A law that reinforced stigma and encouraged prejudice. That law was section 28 and it is a matter of great pride for me that one of David Cameron’s early acts as leader of the party was to apologise on behalf of the Conservatives for having introduced it.”
Section 28 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1988. Thatcher is often forgotten as a social conservative, and simply held up as a neoliberal icon concerned more with capitalism than conservatism. But she placed great emphasis on the family life too, telling confidantes in later life that she wished she had pursued social Thatcherism as well as economic Thatcherism.
The law did not actively attack homosexuality, but rather stated that the government, specifically through schools, “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.
Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the law in 2009, despite opposing its repeal in 2003, before he became Prime Minister or Conservative Party leader.
Nicky Morgan, who is one of Mr Cameron’s favourite female cabinet ministers, told the gay rights conference that she was “on the same side in fighting for equality”, despite herself voting against same sex marriage.
“Of course, politicians have to stand and be counted because of their votes, and as a politician I’m used to taking my share of abuse,” the Guardian reports.
“But, I think there’s a wider lesson that sometimes – particularly on Twitter or other social media – it’s easier to shout and hector than it is to recruit new allies. Sometimes that is justified, but other times it only serves to make us feel better for a moment. It risks alienating allies of the future – those people who want us to help them change their minds and who will be our champions in the future.”