Trade unionists the TUC and gay rights campaigners have accused Gove of failing in his legal and political duties.
Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, wrote to Gove in December expressing alarm that a booklet containing “homophobic material” had been distributed by a US preacher after talks to pupils at Roman Catholic schools across the Lancashire region in 2010.
The booklet, “Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be”, discusses a boy dealing with “homosexual attractions” which it suggested may “stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse”.
The booklet, which claims that “scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”, explains that “the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God’s natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding.”
Referring to the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination against individuals, Barber said: “Schools now have a legal duty to challenge all forms of prejudice. Such literature undermines this completely.”
Answering concerns that schools should have a lega duty to challenge such forms of prejudice, Conservative MP Gove stated: “The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act,” reported the Guardian.
Schools Out, which has campaigned for LGBT equality in schools since 1974, have written to the Education Secretary demanding an explanation.
Tony Fenwick, the group’s co-chair, told Gay Star News: ‘This quote is extraordinary. The Equality Act pushes us to the forefront in Europe and the world on equalities legislation, but Gove’s statement seems to say that schools can escape all that and discriminate against LGBT people through the curriculum.
‘I am willing to assume he has been misquoted or misunderstood. Otherwise lesbians, gays, bisexual and trans people are being taken back to the dark days of Thatcherism and Section 28.
‘For the sake of our communities and our children, we need clarification.’
A spokesman for the UK government’s Department for Education insisted: ‘Any school engaging in the promotion of homophobic material would be acting unlawfully.’