2 mins


"The situation deteriorates every day. I refrain from making prophecies only for them coming true. We have to get organised. We have to establish a nonviolent civil disobedience action campaign. We have to stand in the honourable reactions of the women's sufferage movement to assert our rights and our dignity as people, empowering ourselves in the face of those individuals that would still further oppress us. For us, as for Martin Luther King, "The choice is between non-violence and non existence."

Thus writes Simon Watney (March 1988 issue of Gay Times, London) about the WHO Programmes for AIDS Prevention in the context of Clause 28.

Clause 28 of the UK's Local Government bill has outpaced even AIDS as the single biggest threat to British gay people's very existence. Recently voted through the House of Lords (see GCN Issue 1) this obnoxious piece of legislation is due a final reading in the House of Commons sometime late March/early April and yet opposition to the Clause is snowballing every day.


The enormous demonstration on Saturday 20th February in Manchester was the largest ever political demonstration by gay people in the UK. Indeed it was the largest street protest for ten years in Manchester itself which must bring a fierce glow to the heart of that city's Chief Superintendent, the holier than thou, Msgr. James Anderton. 20,000 protesters, many of them women, marched in angry yet festive mood, through the streets of the city to a rally in front of City Hall at Albert Square.

Among the banners proclaiming "Never Going Underground" were supporters from Ireland, the Netherlands and the US.


The rally was addressed by a number of gay activists, parents of gay people and a host of politicians and media stars, including MPs Keith Bradley, Allan Roberts and Chris Smith, Councillors Linda Bellos and John Bridges, journalist Duncan Campbell, actors Ian McKellem, Stefyn Perri, Sue Johnson and Eastender Michael Cashman. Sue Johnson (Sheila in the popular Brookside soap) received an outstanding reception from the throng in Albert Square as she proclaimed: "When I first heard about Clause 28 it reminded me of Hitler's burning of the books. That", she said, "must not happen here".


The record turnout at Manchester will probably be exceeded on Saturday 30th April at a demonstration in London planned by the London Stop the Clause Campaign.

Throughout April protests are planned for venues around the UK and April 8th has been declared a day of local action.

After the superb lobbying of the House of Lords, where an estimated 700,000 letters of protest were received, there is every possibility of another full debate in the House of Commons before a final vote is taken.

Out of this world lesbian protesters at Manchester demo
(Photo: Pam Isherwood/Format)


Meanwhile, the Association of Local Authorities has instructed lawyers to assess the feasibility of a challenge to the Clause in the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. This is the same court, incidentally, to which David Norris and the National Gay Federation appealed in 1984 when the Supreme Court in Dublin upheld the constitutionality of our own anti-gay laws.

According to Peter Tatchell, Clause 28 contravenes at least five articles of the European Convention on Human Rights - commonly known as the Helsinki Declaration - and six articles of the United nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Britain is a signatory to both the Convention and UN Declaration and any challenge to these instruments of international human rights will be watched eagerly by many gay people throughout the world.

This article appears in Issue 2

Go to Page View
Previous Article Next Article
Issue 2
Page 7