Section 28 – Same Number, Same Discrimination.
“28) The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the Academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.”
Taken from here:
This document was updated on 24th June 2011, and is not something that the government is trying to bring in as new part of the Agreement. It already exists, in practice, for all Free Schools. The wording indicates that this clause is intended to ensure Free Schools are in line with State Schools, therefore almost all children are taught this. Is this Clause 28 with new wording? Not quite, it does not specifically mention non-heterosexual relationships. What it is, is ensuring that schoolchildren are taught the value (for which read moral correctness) of marriage for raising families. “What is the problem with that?” I hear you cry across the nation. Glad you asked.
Section 28 discriminates against any form of relationship which does not conform to marriage, and as marriage is only available to heterosexual couples, it is discrimination against non-heterosexual relationships of any kind. Back in the bad old 80s (for which I have been feeling major déjà vu’s for most of the noughties; increasingly so since the ConDems started decimating controlling the country) Thatcher and her Cronies (now there’s a punk band name) managed to pass Clause 28, which prohibited any school teacher or worker within a school from ‘promoting’ homosexuality, leading to the inability of anyone related to the school being able to talk about non-heterosexuality in any way, shape or form. That was thankfully repealed. To me, Section 28 seems to be attempting exactly the same thing, with the specific remit of ensuring it becomes morally correct only to have children within marriage.
Previously to the industrial revolution, however, only the rich could really afford to be married in traditional church ceremonies (which seldom if at all resembled the meringue circuses which bankrupt many people these days). Many poorer people saw themselves as ‘married’ but had never gone through the traditional marriage ceremony so by today’s legal standards would be classed as cohabiting. After all, it wasn’t until 1836 that the Marriage Act allowed for marriage to be formally legalised by anyone other than a Minister of the Church of England. Children were not raised in a two-parent unit, but in extended family groups or communities if poor, and by governesses, nannies and boarding schools if rich. It was only the expansion of the middle class which allowed for the development of what we now know as the nuclear family. The ‘nuclear’ family is a modern invention, coined in around 1947. It refers to the two-parent and child only model of a family, and increasingly came to be the idealised ‘norm’ model. Gingerbread cites the statistic for single-parent families with dependent children in the UK in 2011 at 23%. That’s almost ¼ of all families. That’s a lot of children being brought up by a single parent being taught how important marriage is to families. This figure has been steady since the mid-1990s.
Further, if we extend the inference of the Section to say that marriage should be for procreation (this seems more and more to be a religious-based Section to me; state schools are supposed to be secular so one assumes the remit would be wider than this, but the same cannot be said for Academies and Free Schools), surely this means all infertile couples should also have their marriages annulled? Of course, that is a ridiculous argument, which no person would seriously consider. However, if the argument against non-heterosexual couples marrying is that they can’t procreate, it stands. They can adopt though, or use surrogates, or, in the case of lesbian couples, carry the child themselves! The emphasis on the importance of ‘marriage’ in relation to family life is exclusive and infers, clearly, a moral superiority which is discriminatory and foundless.
Before anyone comments that gay couples can ‘marry’ and be Civil Partners – if this is the same thing as marriage then it should be called marriage and include all the rights and responsibilities of marriage; further, the marriage ceremony should be able to be conducted in all the same places that heterosexual marriages are conducted. THAT is equality. If religious organisations refuse to marry non-heterosexual couples, then I say they should have their right to conduct the legal marriage ceremony removed and conduct blessings in the eyes of whichever God they worship – the legal ceremony should only be legal in secular places such as registry offices or the halls/castles etc. that now have licences to hold them.
Gay couples became able to legally adopt in 2005. One can assume that therefore there will be an increasing number of gay couples doing so. However, children have been raised by gay parents ever since there have been children and gay parents – I’m guessing the statistics would be very hard to come by but anecdotally 21 years ago I was at college with at least one girl whose mother was a lesbian. That was 21 years ago, and I’m damn sure I’m not unique and nor was she.
As far as I am concerned, the argument about gay marriage and raising children within a gay relationship is won with this video, but I freely admit I have a bias (which you may have picked up on, I’m not sure…):
What I firmly believe is important is that children are taught about sex, sexuality, relationships, marriage and civil partnership, and all aspects of personal interactions without moralistic judgement. Those moralistic judgements come from a variety of circumstance, be it religious influence, cultural influence, social peer influence, and so on. These can be taught as well, but it is vital that the child be taught ALL aspects of life in this way, as they will face all manner of views in their lives and the tools to deal with the same are essential to them.
Children don’t discriminate unless they are taught how to. Problems they may face as part of a non-married family come from the judgements that are made by their society, not from any inherent moral ‘wrong’.
I searched the Free Schools Model Funding document. There is no mention of Civil Partners or sex education in any context at all other than my cut-and-paste that opened this blog post.
Section 28 is another attempt to allow children to be taught to discriminate. It is wrong. It must be either amended or repealed, and I suggest amendment to encourage life skills, not bigotry.