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The shape of equality: discourses around the Section 28 repeal in Scotland

Rahman, Momin (2004) The shape of equality: discourses around the Section 28 repeal in Scotland. Sexualities, 7 (2). pp. 150-166. ISSN 1363-4607

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Abstract

This article focuses on conceptualizations of equality in the discourses deployed in the campaign to repeal Section 28 in Scotland. I use the parliamentary debates and two newspapers: the Daily Record, which supported the campaign to Keep the Clause, and The Guardian, which supported repeal, to exemplify the different discursive articulations around equality and citizenship. I suggest that the Scottish example provides further evidence of the ways in which liberalism naturalizes heterosexuality as the standard for citizenship and thus bequeaths a hierarchy of 'equality' and citizenship in the realm of sexuality, wherein lesbian and gay citizenship is either rendered invalid or characterized as 'special rights'. However, within the narrow confines of the parliamentary debates, more expansive and differentiated notions of citizenship and equality are evident. Whilst I conclude that the 'shape' of equality achieved through the repeal has been moulded to support institutionalized heterosexuality - with Section 28 replaced by statutory guidelines on sex education which advocate marriage - I also suggest equality is contested, both through the recognition of transformations in heterosexual family forms and the appeal to non-discrimination as a democratic principle. It is possible, therefore, that current destabilizations of the heterosexual social order simultaneously destabilize the precepts of liberal democracy.