The late Margaret Thatcher
Veteran LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell has remembered the late Margaret Thatcher as a “heartless” woman who introduced Britain’s first anti-gay law in 100 years.
Tatchell made the comments following news of the 87-year-old former Prime Minister’s death. Thatcher passed away on Monday after suffering a stroke.
She was the longest-serving UK Prime Minister of the 20th century (1979–1990), and the only woman ever to have held the post.
While tributes poured in for the Iron Lady from around the world, Tatchell said that “Margaret Thatcher was an extraordinary woman but she was extraordinary for mostly the wrong reasons. So many of her policies were wrong and heartless”.
He noted that in 1988, the Thatcher government legislated Britain’s first new anti-gay law in 100 years: Section 28.
The law stated that a local authority “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”.
Section 28, which was bitterly opposed by the LGBT community, was only repealed in 2000 in Scotland, and in 2003 in the rest of Great Britain. It is reminiscent of similar ‘gay-propaganda’ laws that have been recently passed in Russia.
Tatchell also pointed out that at the 1987 Conservative party conference Thatcher mocked people who defended the right to be gay, insinuating that there was no such right.
“During her rule, arrests and convictions for consenting same-sex behaviour rocketed, as did queer bashing violence and murder. Gay men were widely demonised and scapegoated for the AIDS pandemic and Thatcher did nothing to challenge this vilification,” he added.
“To her credit,” Tatchell said, “she shattered the sexist glass ceiling in politics and got to the top in a man’s world. However, on becoming Prime Minister she did little for the rights of women. She was a macho, testosterone-fuelled right-wing politician.”
In a tribute released by the White House, President Obama said the “world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend”.
Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Thatcher in the 2011 film The Iron Lady, said in a statement that “Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.
“To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable,” Streep stated.