LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May’s record on gay rights has come under scrutiny today after an interview emerged in which she defended legislation that prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
In a 2001 interview with the Leeds Student newspaper, discovered by Vice, May said: “Most parents want the comfort of knowing Section 28 is there.”
Section 28 was the legislation that banned the “promotion of homosexuality in schools,” and stopped councils from spending money on educational materials and projects that were seen to promote a gay lifestyle.
The prime minister, who at the time was shadow education and employment secretary in the Conservative opposition, said: “No headteacher has commented to me that they are not able to deal with homophobic bullying or discuss homosexuality, where is appropriate, with young people.”
The legislation was repealed by the Labour government in 2003, voted through by 356 votes to 127, with local government minister Nick Raynsford saying: “For over a decade, Section 28 has cast a cloud of confusion and ambiguity over local authorities’ ability to support and provide services to the whole of their community. Repeal means this cloud has been lifted.”
This revelation follows the prime minister admitting the Conservatives had got it wrong in the past on LBGT+ rights in an article published by Pink News on Thursday to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
May wrote: “I am proud of the role my Party has played in recent years in advocating a Britain which seeks to end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity, but I acknowledge where we have been wrong on these issues in the past.
“There will justifiably be scepticism about the positions taken and votes cast down through the years by the Conservative Party, and by me, compared to where we are now.”
A YouGov poll commissioned by Pink News, published on Thursday, showed that 61% of all Conservative voters who expressed an opinion said that sex between gay people is unnatural compared to just 27% of Labour voters and 22% of Liberal Democrat voters.
In the 2001 interview May also explained why she voted against the minimum wage with the rest of the Conservative Party, saying: “There was an issue regarding the impact it was going to have on jobs and that, of course, bears a relationship to the level at which the minimum wage is set.”
Here is the interview:
May was confident that the Conservatives would win the 2001 general election, which Labour went onto win with 413 seats compared to the Tories 166.
“A lot of people, when I talk to them on the doorstep, are saying that they are completely fed up with a Labour government that has failed to deliver and I expect that our common sense approach to policies will appeal to people,” she told Leeds Student.
“William [Hague] will lead us into the general election. I have every confidence that he will become Conservative prime minister.”