Following the election of New Labour in 1997, several moves were made to repeal Section 28. While they were ultimately successful (new legislation omitting the clause was passed in September 2003), along the way they met with considerable opposition from various quarters including many leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths — all traditions in which natural law ethics has had an influence. On the other side of the debate the proponents of repeal divided into three broad groups. First, liberals of the sort who do not believe that it is the business of law either to promote or to prohibit behaviour on moral grounds. Second, advocates of alternative sexualities who insist that the state has a responsibility to encourage attitudes and actions favourable to these sexualities; not in the sense of teaching people to adopt them, but of teaching them to affirm or even to celebrate them. Third, moral conservatives who, while not favouring the neutral state, were unhappy about the way in which matters of sexual morality are now dealt with.
There was certainly ground for complaint that the clause was discriminatory in singling out one particular sexual group. So far as public opinion is concerned it is hard to suppose that those who maintain the moral superiority of heterosexual over homosexual activity would be happy to have local authorities promote heterosexual sadomasochism or fetishism or hetero-polyamory. And if that is not the case then the charge of unfairness commonly levelled against opponents of the repeal of Section 28 begins to look justified.
What is in fact the case, however, is that most people do not want local authorities or schools to promote, recommend or celebrate any particular form of sexual activity, though recent polling suggests that they would be happy and indeed wish to see heterosexual marriage, or at least stable, domestic heterosexual family life presented as a desirable norm.
Clearly, though, this would be unacceptable to sexual radicals. Moreover, they are likely to regard mere social toleration of homosexuality (or of other alternatives) as insufficient, noting correctly that toleration is compatible with moral disapproval. But approval cannot be coerced, and it is evident that the majority do not regard all forms of sexual activity as equally valid. If pressed as to why, they will usually speak in terms of what is "normal" or "natural", i.e. according to proper function. Of course, such reasoning is unlikely to persuade those who maintain the moral equivalence of all non-coercive forms of sexual lifestyle. To date the primary focus has been on two-person, same-sex unions but the claims of polyamourous groups and incestuous partners are also beginning to be pressed.
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