Last edited: February 14, 2005

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 man’s 1996 conviction was "interference with the applicant’s 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 man’s home.

A provision of Britain’s 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 court said.

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.

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