One of Boy George’s best pieces of music—well, in my book, anyway—is 1988’s seldom-heard slice of fierce, dance music protest, “No Clause 28.” I picked it up, neither knowing what it was about, nor having actually heard it, because of the amazing cover artwork by Jamie Reid depicting Boy George as Enid Blyton’s “Noddy.” It’s a pretty amazing record of its time, in more ways than one.
Clause 28 or Section 28, as it was also known, was an addition to the Local Government Act of 1988. Clause 28 stipulated that local government councils in the UK “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.”
This was the end of the Thatcher era and due to newly widespread awareness—and fear—of AIDS, then considered a gay disease, homosexuality was frowned upon in such a way that it was thought necessary to officially condemn it and protect children from it. The matter was largely a symbolic issue, but it caused many gay and lesbian groups at high schools and universities to close shop.
The night before Section 28 became law (May 24, 1988) a lesbian chained herself to the desk of BBC Six O’Clock News presenter Sue Lawley. Parliament was also invaded by lesbian activists scaling the building like rock climbers.
In many ways, Clause 28 is what saw the cohesion of Britain’s modern gay rights movement. Aside from Boy George, many big name celebrities spoke out about Clause 28, such as Ian McKellen, beloved One Foot in the Grave actress Annette Crosbie, Helen Mirren, Jane Horrocks and comics great, Alan Moore.
The Section was repealed on June 21, 2000 in Scotland, and in the rest of Great Britain in November of 2003. It’s worth noting that Prime Minister David Cameron was vocally in support of keeping the Section intact, although he thought better of this later and apologized in 2010.