Fight for gay rights

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Since Peter Willows' homophobic remarks (The Argus, February 26), The Argus has published letters from Labour and Tory supporters that once would have been amazing. They have been falling over themselves to prove their party is not homophobic.

Brighton Pride came out of the campaign against Section 28 exactly 20 years ago. This was a piece of Tory legislation making it illegal for schools and councils to say being gay was just as good as being straight.

I was involved with that campaign, along with scores of lesbians and gay men. Some were already political, some were politicised by the discriminatory law. I cannot remember any Tories in the campaign - after all, it was their law. While there were some Labour party members, Labour's leaders seemed to be a problem. Their leader at the time, Neil Kinnock, had recently called gay campaigner Peter Tatchell a fairy, and a leaked memo had shown they worried about the "lesbian and gay issue costing us dear among the pensioners".

The initial reaction of the Labour leadership to Section 28 was to support it. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men came out of the closet and on to the streets. Pride mushroomed. Brave individuals came out to their friends, families and workmates.

Ironically, because of Section 28 and the anti-gay bigotry around Aids, Britain's lesbian and gay community was stronger than ever.

Not only was the law never tested but gradually the media, police, politicians and businesses became less hostile and more "gay friendly". Brighton Pride went from a few hundred to more than 100,000.

As much as I welcome the Labour and Tory pro-gay letters in The Argus, I will never forget that it was the actions of ordinary gay people and their straight supporters who transformed the anti-gay culture of 1980s Britain. And I will never trust politicians to resist any anti-gay backlash if they thought they would lose votes.

  • Dave Jones, Springfield Road, Brighton