Britain’s lawmakers clearly under-estimated the fury of the LGBT+ community when they introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act to Parliament.
They may, indeed, have thought that they could ignore the thousands who had marched against the enshrining of homophobia into law. But they weren’t prepared for a protest that occurred in their own little ivory tower – the House of Lords.
As is the case with any proposed legislation, debate is followed by a vote. In the House of Lords, once there is a majority vote in favour, the legislation goes back to the House of Commons for ratification. Activists had hoped that there would be sufficient opposition in one or both Houses to block the legislation. Sadly, this was not the case as the Opposition Labour Party sat on its hands for fear of getting bad publicity in the media.
And so, when the House of Lords voted on February 2nd 1988 to support the legislation, lesbian activists – the so-called Lesbian Avengers – sprang into action.
Having smuggled ropes into the Public Gallery they threw them over the balcony and abseiled into the main chamber of the House. They did not, as was reported at the time, ‘disrupt debate’; the debate and vote had both been completed. The women were protesting at the outcome of the vote.
Sadly, the protest did not change the ultimate outcome of Section 28’s progress through Parliament. But it did, at least, signal to the Parliamentary stuffed shirts that queer people weren’t going to let them demonise us without a fight.