Remembering the lesbians who stormed the BBC in protest at Section 28

In 1988, a group of lesbians stormed a BBC TV news studio – to protest against Section 28.

On 23 May, 1988, the women managed to get into the studio where Sue Lawley was presenting the Six O’Clock News, in opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s anti-gay legislation, which outlawed the “promotion” of homosexuality in public institutions. 

The legislation was passed in parliament the following day, but eventually repealed in Scotland in 2000, and three years later in England and Wales.

Co-presenter Nicholas Witchell, now a royal correspondent, sat on a protester and placed his hand over her mouth. Lawley continued to announce the headlines as the activists could be heard crying out “stop Section 28”.

A few months earlier, women protesters abseiled from the public gallery on to the floor of the House of Lords during a debate on the bill.

LGBTQ+ activist Booan Temple, one of those involved in storming the BBC, told PinkNews : “You can hear the little muffled shouts. We could not get the media to understand what the impact was going to be on our community, on our children. The only thing left was to be the news, by being on the news. It did get huge media coverage. 

LGBTQ activist Booan Temple
LGBTQ+ activist Booan Temple took part in the protests against Section 28. (David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

“Over time, and beyond that, I’ve heard from quite a lot of people what it meant to them as a young LGBTQ+ person at home, knowing they were gay, but maybe not out.” 

Section 28 had an enormous impact both inside and outside schools. According to helplines, there was a threefold increase in LGBTQ+ harassment following it being placed on the statute books.