|This position represents a change for Cameron, who as recently as 2003 publicly supported the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988, which said that a local authority
shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality or
promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. Scotland abolished that provision in 2000 and Cameron's 2003 opposition was in the context of a debate to extend that abolition to the rest of the UK, which despite the opposition of the Conservatives was done.
But lifting a prohibition is not the same as urging the teaching of equality. Cameron made his current remarks in answering a question from the group Stonewall, which noted Nick Clegg, the Liberal-Democratic leader, had said that students should be taught homosexuality was "normal and harmless."
Here are some more of Cameron's exact words:
In the past the Conservative party made a mistake with section 28. That is something we have apologised for. We got that wrong. The only thing I thought where Nick Clegg was potentially getting it wrong is, I don't think the style and content of sex and relationship education should be dictated from on high in Whitehall and Westminster. There is a danger with that.
But should we teach children about relationships? Yes, we should. Should we teach them about consent? Yes, we should. Should we teach them about the importance of equality, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual? Yes, we should. Should we teach them about civil partnerships being the way of same sex couples showing commitment just as married couples show commitment? Yes, we should.
All of those things can help us to create a fairer country and also help us deal with homophobic bullying. There is no doubt that it is a problem and it can be dealt with.
The article concludes with an observation on the changing attitudes in the UK towards homosexuality, where now only 36% consider sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex "always or mostly" wrong, down from 63% in 1983.
The Obama administration is moving towards repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There already is pushback. It is not yet clear whether Republicans in the Senate will attempt to organize a filibuster on that (which would have to pick up Democrats to be sustained, since a number of Republicans, starting with the two women from Maine, are unlikely to oppose the repeal). We are already hearing the usual baloney about how it would damage "unit cohesion" to lift the prohition on openly serving gay service personnel. And yet, we participate in NATO with nations that not only allow openly gay service personnel (20 of the member nations of Nato, including the UK, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway and Spain), but also allow gay marriage (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and Norway). Are we going to say that a unit commander from one of those nations who is gay and married means our troops cannot serve under or along side him? Will we refuse to allow a military attache from such a nation to bring his or her same-sex spouse on a diplomatic passport?
I can remember as a child being taught that the US was the bastion of liberty for nations around the world, and being met with embarrassed silence when I asked about segregation - I was 8 at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in secondary school for much of the heart of the Civil Rights Movement (graduating from high school in 1963). We lagged in offering full equality then, and we lag in offering full equality now, especially to those who are gay, bi-, and transgendered.
Any attempt at moving towards full equality, of recognizing what other nations with similar backgrounds (English speaking, roots in British common law, etc) have already acknowledged with their nations.
And now the leader of the Conservative party is urging that his nation's public schools teach about equality, among other things to diminish the bullying that still exists, coming from intolerance and fear. And here? We will have those who will argue under the First Amendment their right to teach and preach discrimination, to seek to impose their religious opposition to marriage equality through law, to suppress any attempts at trying to educate our young people as improper indoctrination. I can remember the screams over the use of books like Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman with Diana Souza's illustrations, published in 1989. Well, I have news for such bigots: their kids are going to encounter people like Heather throughout America - I currently teach two different young ladies who have two mothers, and I suspect as I continue to teach the percentage of my students from such families will increase, just as the percentage of students willing to be open about their same-sex orientation has gone up noticeably since I began my public school teaching career in 1995 (has it only be since then? It sometimes seems as if I have been teaching my entire life!).
An earlier generation of American conservative political leaders looked to the UK, to Thatcher, for their model of what to do. Are there any leaders among modern Conservatives willing to look towards David Cameron on this issue? Or are they so narrow, so fearful, that they will continue to operate on the basis of prejudice and discrimination?
And how many Progressive and Liberal politicians would be willing to emulate Cameron? How many might say that as we rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act we should include as a provision of receiving Federal funds that schools teach about gay equality - that all our children and all our people are entitled to full equal rights? How many would even suggest that we should be teaching our children how far behind the rest of the world we are on many issue: on abolishing capital punishment, for example, and - yes - on recognition of the full humanity of those whose sexual orientation is towards those of the same sex?
Kudoes to David Cameron. And brickbats to the American politicians who lack the courage and the leadership to speak and act similarly.