Stonewalling is “a simple technique of holding your ground and not giving an inch in an argument.”

Stonewalling is what a small group of young professionals did in the late 1980’s when they formed the pressure group called Stonewall which actively campaigned against an infamous piece of legislation, Section 28, which was part of the Local Government Act of 1988. I remember some of the horrendous effects this legislation had on free speech, especially among teachers and others in the public eye. Sir Ian McKellen, Matthew Parris, Lisa Power, Michael Cashman and Olivette Cole-Wilson, five of the original Stonewall group, took part in The Reunion on Radio 4 and very heart-warming it was too.

Section 28 made it a civil offence for local authorities to “promote the acceptability of lesbian and gay relationships”. In some ways its bark was worse than its bite, because it didn’t restrict teachers in England and Wales in the area of sex education, this being the responsibility of school governors, not local education authorities. But many teachers felt that Section 28 obstructed their wishes to meet the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils, and it was thought that the noticeable rise in playground bullying of “queers” and “poofters” was directly attributable to this law.

Thankfully, Section 28 has been repealed and a new Equality Bill has been published. This simplifies, and brings together, legislation about many aspects of discrimination and inequality including sexual orientation, socio-economic status, race, gender, age, and others.  It is expected to come into force from autumn 2010 and many think that it will be useful to employers, helping them to make the most of all their employees and potential employees.

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