CLAUSE 28 IS ILLEGAL; Anti-Gay Legislation Breaches Euro Guidelines Says Lawyer

Article excerpt

CONTROVERSIAL anti-gay law Clause 28 is illegal, a top lawyer claimed last night.

John Scott, from the Scottish Human Rights Centre, says it breaks European law by banning any discussion of homosexual issues in the classroom.

Bus millionaire Brian Souter's Keep the Clause campaign will this week launch its advertising blitz aimed at persuading the Government not to repeal the legislation. But Scott said last night: "The European Court of Human Rights has tended to be more liberal than we are.

"It looks at all the countries in Europe to see how they deal with this and they are far more tolerant than us.

"That strongly suggests they would say having this clause prevents children from getting the all-round education to which they have a right."

Scott believes a precedent was set in 1976 when the European Court ruled that kids have a right to know what happens in society after a group of parents in Denmark tried to stop sex education in schools.

Their case was thrown out.

And last year, during the controversy on allowing gays into the military, the court declared that the hallmarks of a democracy are "tolerance and broad-mindedness."

Scott says Clause 28 would fail on both these counts.

And he added: "I believe that for these reasons the clause is illegal under European law."

But, he warned, Euro laws would also stop teachers from 'promoting' homosexuality in class - the biggest fear of Keep the Clause campaigners.

He said that human rights laws make it clear that while kids must be taught about what goes on in society they must not be indoctrinated by one particular point of view.

Meanwhile, a leading gay rights advocate has urged homosexuals to "come out" in a bid to tackle ignorance and prejudice.

Derek Ogg claims the gay community has spent too much time talking within itself and has failed to get the message across to the public.

He said: "I had hoped the scrapping of Clause 28 would remove one of the bricks which have helped build prejudice.

"Unfortunately some people have taken advantage of it to whip up prejudice.

"Everyone knows gay people but many of them aren't openly gay.

"Ordinary people have to come out and reassure the public over what we are about.

"We just want to set up homes without being harassed and lead peaceful lives like everyone else.

"Let's draw a line under this hysteria and stop the clause."

A Scottish Executive spokesman said the plan to repeal the clause is on the grounds that it is discriminatory.

But he confirmed all laws in Scotland now have to comply with the European convention on human rights.

Last night a spokesman for Souter's campaign denied Clause 28 was in breach of law.

He said: "It's an interesting theory but not one many distinguished lawyers would agree with."

However, Souter's campaign was dealt a further blow last night when the country's biggest teaching union threw its weight behind the campaign to repeal.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "Everybody is entitled to their view but we need to try to make sure that all views are equally valid."

And he promised his union, which has 40,000 members, would continue to fight for repeal - although he admitted the EIS could not hope to compete with Souter's publicity campaign.

He said: "We have made our representations through the proper channels.

"If we are called upon to elucidate our response we will be pleased to do that, but we do think that it is important that this is conducted through the political process, not through a heavy-duty PR campaign. …