Splits over 'Section 28' laid bare
Divisions both within the Conservative party and amongst prominent Christians were laid bare last night as MPís voted against an amendment to retain Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which bans the ìpromotionî of homosexuality in schools.
An amendment seeking to reinstate Section 28 was put forward yesterday by the catholic Conservative MP Edward Leigh, and highlighted divisions between ìmodernisersî who are seeking to shed the party's "nasty" image and ìtraditionalistsî.
The amendment was rejected by 368 votes to 77. Of those voting for reinstatement, three were Labour MPs and the majority Tories, including Mr Duncan Smith and prominent figures from his party.
During a heated debate, Conservative MPs openly clashed in the chamber. Edward Leigh, chairman of the public accounts committee, said that Section 28 should be restored because homosexuality was "wrong".
"The reason I have put down an amendment to retain Section 28 is that I believe it is right and it represents the views of a majority of the British people," he said.
Ann Widdecombe, who has been a staunch opponent of liberalising the law on homosexual rights, was backed in the debate by another Catholic Julian Brazier, the frontbench Tory MP for Canterbury, as well as Andrew Selous, an evangelical and Member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.
But there were also many Christians on the other side of the argument.
Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, and a former Chairman of the Christian Socialist Movement made a passionate speech supporting the repeal of Section 28, saying it was irrelevant, since no prosecutions had been brought under it, and that it fuelled prejudice against homosexuals.
The Bill now goes to the Lords, where further controversy is likely.