Released today in 1988: No Clause 28

Virgin BOY106

Virgin BOY106

Protest singles of the 80s No. 1: Boy George

The release of Boy George’s single No Clause 28, a reaction against a change to the Local Government Act, came just under two weeks after the amendment had become law. The amendment, which changed name (‘clause’, ‘section’) and number (it was also numbered 25 or 27 at times) ran as follows:

The following section shall be inserted after section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986 (prohibition of political publicity) —

“Prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material.

1. A local authority shall not —
a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;
b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

It was passed on 24 May 1988. There were many points of debate about the content, in the broadest and narrowest senses. The most controversial word in the text was ‘promote’. A group of national newspaper agony aunts wrote to the London Evening Standard to point out that “it is not possible to ‘promote’ homosexuality as one’s sexuality is as intrinsic a part of the individual as one’s gender or the colour of one’s skin.” MP Tony Benn warned in a March 1988 Commons speech that “The House had better be very careful before it gives to judges, who come from a narrow section of society, the power to interpret ‘promote’”.

Boy George had wider concerns about the implications of the clause. “I don’t mean to be uptight/But tell me Iron Lady, are we moving to the Right?” he sang in his song. When asked indirectly No Clause 28 was effectively just gay rights propaganda, he said in Record Mirror: “I don’t see why it should be a step-back for homosexuals; it will affect everybody. I think it’s a step-back for humanity.” He also told New Musical Express about the proposed amendment: “If they do ban the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality I’ll have to put myself under house arrest, there will be no theatre, no art, quite a few less pop stars and we will have to wipe out most of this country’s past history.” He had plenty of support from fellow Smash Hits cover stars, who were quoted in the same articles in both magazines:

Sara Dallin of Bananarama: “Obviously I disagree with this clause wholeheartedly. When a government starts legislating against minority groups it’s time to start worrying.”

Neil Tennant: “Fascism.”

Paul Heaton and Norman Cook of The Housemartins: “Clause 28 is based purely on homophobia and the notion that homosexuality is a disease. It is a predictably dangerous step from our government’s wealthy bank of 19th Century moral regression.”

Holly Johnson: “It’s a complete step backwards to the Victorian age… I think that’s why a lot of European people laugh at the English, because that kind of sexual conservatism is unrealistic.”

Mark Moore of S’Express: “It’s an utterly hideous proposition. Whoever first conceived the idea should be exposed to ridicule as much as possible. Hopefully, if there is a more humane attitude, he or she will go down in history as a bigot and hypocrite of almost Hitlerian proportions.”

  • The bigot in question was Jill Knight, still prattling to this day about protecting children. She recently voiced her opposition to same-sex marriage, presenting it as being a threat to child welfare.

  • Tim Simenon of Bomb The Bass: “The idea of banning anything to do with homosexuality is absolutely pathetic. People should be allowed to do what they want, man.”

    Wendy James: “The clause is a blatant infringement of the individual’s civil liberties, but the effect may not be as far-reaching as some expect. It could be so badly worded as to make impossible to implement.”

  • She was right. As it created no criminal offence there could be no prosecutions. What it did create was nervousness around funding organizations that supported or counselled people (young people in particular) concerned about issues to do with sexuality. Some organizations self-censored in case their funding was cut by nervous local authorties.

  • Julian Brookhouse of Curiosity Killed The Cat: “Ignorance is bliss. Contrary to the opinion of some repressed politicians, homosexuality is not a disease and is not a perversion. Educating people about it can do nothing but good.”

  • Eventually, Brookhouse’s common-sense view prevailed. The clause was finally removed from the statute books in 2003.

  • Tomorrow: Protest singles of the 80s No. 2!

    NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 6
    1980
    TOYAH Ieya (Safari SAFE28)
    The VAPORS News At Ten (United Artists BP345)
    Mari WILSON Love Man (GTO GT274)
    1988
    A-HA The Blood That Moves The Body (Warner Bros W7840)
    BOY GEORGE No Clause 28 (Virgin BOY106)
    BROS I Owe You Nothing [Re-issue] (CBS ATOM4)
    FAT BOYS Twist (Urban URB20)
    PEPSI AND SHIRLIE Hightime (Polydor PO1)
    Joe STRUMMER Trash City (Epic TRASH1)
    TRANSVISION VAMP (Wendy James) I Want Your Love (MCA TVV3)
    UB40 Breakfast In Bed (DEP International DEP29)

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