Peter Tatchell: Commons leader should apologise over LGBT education comments

"Andrea Leadsom is sending a signal that parents should have a veto over the dignity and welfare of pupils," the human rights campaigner tells LFF.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for the leader of the Commons to apologise, after she suggested parents should be able to withdraw their children from LGBT education.

In an interview with LBC on Wednesday morning, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said it was up to parents to decide when their children should be ‘exposed to that information’ in regard to LGBT relationships education.

The frontbencher’s comments were called ‘bigoted’ after her comments on LBC.

It follows the decision of five schools in Birmingham to cancel an LGBT education programme called ‘No Outsiders’, after protests from some parents.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, Peter Tatchell – who was prominent in the campaign against Section 28 banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools – said:

“No parent has the right to keep their child in a state of ignorance and prejudice. These lessons are intended to encourage respect and stop bullying. We don’t want pupils to feel out of place because they have two mums or two dads. No young person should be left to realise that they’re LGBT and to suffer anxiety or depression as a consequence.

“It’s astonishing that the leader of the House should, in effect, side with parents who oppose an inclusive education system that tackles homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Andrea Leadsom is sending a signal that parents should have a veto over the dignity and welfare of pupils.

 “She should withdraw those comments, apologise and make a statement affirming that talking about same sex relationships is not only perfectly valid but a moral responsibility on every school.”

Commenting on the decision by five Birmingham schools to scrap its LGBT education scheme, the campaigner told this site:

“It’s tragic that a pioneering successful diversity programme should be cancelled by schools that have bowed to pressure from parents who have either been misinformed about the content of the lessons or who are themselves wilfully prejudiced.

“These lessons are not about sex and they don’t promote any sexual orientation: they’re solely concerned with improving the health and welfare of young people. Homosexuality is legal in this country, and LGBT people are afforded equal rights – there is no reason why this commitment should stop at the school gates.

“It’s clearly in the interests in the health and welfare of pupils that relationship and sex education lessons are mandatory and LGBT inclusive, with no opt outs for faith or independent schools.

“We want to cut the levels of teenage pregnancies, abortions, sexual infections, bullying and sexual abuse. Schools that have trialled these lessons have seen a dramatic, positive benefits for the pupils involved.”

See also: “Commons leader condemned over ‘bigoted’ comments on LGBT education

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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