Euro Court Nixes British Gay Law
Associated Press, July 31, 2000
By Paul Ames
BRUSSELS, Belgium The European Court of Human Rights ordered
Britain to pay a homosexual man $50,000 in costs and damages Monday for convicting him
under legislation that outlaws gay group sex.
The mans 1996 conviction was "interference with the applicants right
to respect for his private life" as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human
Rights, ruled European judges in Strasbourg, France.
The man, identified by his initials, A.D.T., took his case to the European court after
he was convicted of gross indecency for having sex with four other men during a party at
his house. Police found a video of the party during a search of the mans home.
A provision of Britains Sexual Offenses Act, enacted in 1956, states that
homosexual sex is illegal if more than two people take part or are present.
The legislation includes a number of laws applicable to homosexuals or heterosexuals,
but the provision A.D.T. challenged applied only to homosexual males.
A panel of seven judges at the European court ruled unanimously that A.D.T.s
prosecution violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which
safeguards respect for private life.
"The activities in the case were purely and genuinely private," the European
The decision was hailed by gay-rights campaigners.
"This judgment drives a coach and horses through the gross indecency laws,"
said Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, a British gay rights group.
The European ruling increases pressure on the British government to scrap the law and
replace it with new legislation that deals even-handedly with both "offensive
heterosexual and homosexual behavior in public," Stonewall said in a statement.
The European Court of human rights was set up in 1950 to enforce the human rights
convention, which has been signed by all 41 nations of the Council of Europe.