Labour MP Angela Eagle broke down in Parliament today as she defiantly told those protesting LGBT-inclusive lessons: “We aren’t going to get back in the closet.”
In a debate on Tuesday (June 25), MPs discussed parental involvement in teaching following an ongoing controversy over LGBT-inclusive lessons in schools. The row has caused protests outside schools in Birmingham since January.
The openly gay MP spoke through tears as she told the chamber: “They [want] to return us to an era where LGBT people should get back in the closet and hide and be ashamed of the way they are.
“We aren’t going to get back in the closet or hide or be ashamed of the way we are, and nor are we going to allow a generation of pupils who are now in school to go through what pupils in the 80s had to go through because this chamber let them down.”
“We aren’t going to get back in the closet, or hide, or be ashamed of the way we are”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 25, 2019
Growing visibly emotional, she called for action from MPs on the matter, saying that religious beliefs should not be a justification: “We mustn’t put together this view that if someone has a religious objection that there can be no debate about it from then on in.
“There are multiple views in religions about the legitimacy of LGBT rights and it’s only on the far extremist, fundamentalist fringes that we get the kind of hostility that is being shown on some of the Facebook groups of these campaigners.”
Eagle became the UK’s second openly lesbian MP when she came out in 1997. Having lived through the era of Section 28 when the “promotion” of homosexuality was banned, she asserted that LGBT-inclusive education was something that “we should have been doing in this country generations ago.”
She said it would have resulted in “an awful lot of much happier and well adjusted people than those that have been monstered” by Section 28, which was finally repealed in 2003.
Her words were met with agreement from many in the chamber. Eagle’s fellow Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, later praised her for her “moving and heartfelt speech.”
@angelaeagle gave such a moving and heartfelt speech in #SRE (parental involvement) debate. Joined by other brilliant and principled colleagues @SDoughtyMP @RhonddaBryant highlighting @UKLabour‘s history of championing #LGBT rights.
— Rosie Duffield MP (@RosieDuffield1) June 25, 2019
MP Harriet Harman agreed that Eagle was “totally right” to demand LGBT-inclusive education.
The tears of @angelaeagle tell of the tears of LGBT people, their suffering, oppression & discrimination. She demands that today’s school children don’t suffer the way her generation did. Totally right. https://t.co/6rDvEzYKzm
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) June 25, 2019
Robert Godsiff “doesn’t represent Labour”
Godsiff controversially defended parental involvement in teaching the Equality Act. He said: “Children, some as young as four or five, were telling parents about what they allegedly had been taught in lessons. This had caused parents concern.”
He described the protesters as “mostly young mothers” who have “done nothing wrong, other than be good mothers who want to express concerns about what their children are telling them”.
He added: “There was no consultation with the parents, and the headteacher made it plain that no consultation was going to take place and no collective meetings with parents were held.”
Godsiff caused unrest on the Labour benches by refusing repeated calls for him to give way and allow interventions.
Fellow Labour MP Steve Reed later said on Twitter that Godsiff’s “repulsive pandering to bigotry” was “disgraceful”, while LGBT+ Labour said: “Roger Godsiff doesn’t represent Labour. His support for the school gate protesters in Birmingham legtimises their attempts to vilify LGBT+ people and stir up tension.”