I am entirely comfortable in the presence of homosexuals. I'm genuinely pleased for friends of mine who have entered into civil partnerships. I'm very glad we have equality of the age of consent for homosexuals. And I wish we could leave Section 28 in the past where it belongs - a measure of its time, which had a purpose in its day but which came to be distorted by both sides into an iconic measure.
As I say, I wish we could leave Section 28 in the past, but some people won't let us so, alas, tedious though it is, I shall be forced to defend Section 28 as the liberal Conservative measure that it was. I don't know precisely who the "we" is on whose behalf David Cameron thinks he's entitled to say "We got it wrong", but it isn't me.
As virtually all of you will know, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was introduced in direct and specific response to a situation in which gay liberation activists managed to get themselves elected to local authorities and in particular to the Inner London Education Authority. These activists then used their political position to force school libraries to carry literature directed at five and six year old children teaching them that it was perfectly normal to be raised in a family with homosexual parents. The best known of these books was "Jenny lives with Eric and Martin".
Most people at the time thought (and indeed, I'll bet most people today still think) that they do not pay their taxes to the local authority so that it can promote alternative lifestyles or force their schools to promote alternative lifestyles. For this reason, Section 28 was introduced, stating
(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.
Note what it says and does not say. It does not say that schools may not promote homosexuality, if that's what the school wants to do. No doubt many anti-gay campaigners wished that's what it had said. No doubt many teachers and pro-gay campaigners thought that's what it said. But it didn't say that.
Similarly, I have no doubt that many anti-gay campaigners regarded its purpose as holding some kind of line against what they would have regarded as a descent into depravity, but it was not in essence an anti-gay measure, per se, and not everyone who voted for it or supported it later regarded it as an anti-gay measure. Just because some people have their own bad reasons for supporting a measure doesn't make it a bad measure. For example, doubtless some people who oppose unrestricted immigration into the UK do so for racist reasons. But that doesn't mean that believing in controlled immigration is racist. In precisely the same way, just because some people who favoured Section 28 did so because they were anti-gay does not mean that to support Section 28 was to be anti-gay.
Section 28 was a quintessentially liberal measure. It related to the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. The question asked was whether it was the proper function of the state to promote alternative lifestyles. I say no. I would feel the same about paying my taxes so that the local authority could tell us all that we must be nuns or monks, or telling us that we must not marry because marriage is rape. It's not the job of the state to promote alternative lifestyles, and that is what Section 28 says local authorities must not do (and it is all that Section 28 says they must not do).
If David Cameron now believes that it is the proper role of the state to promote alternative lifestyles, and indeed so manifestly and universally the role of the state to do this that one must now apologize for ever having believed that this was not the role of the state, then he makes his comments and his apologies for himself. He's nothing to do with me on this one.