Last edited: December 17, 2004

UK Territories to Have Anti-Gay Laws Repealed

DataLounge, 13 November 2000

LONDON—Britain is preparing to repeal laws criminalizing gay sex between consensual adults in its Overseas Territories, a move that could set off a raucous turn in its relations with colonial holdings in the Caribbean, The Independent reports.

After more than a year of frequently angry exchanges between the British and hostile politicians and religious leaders in the territories, ministers in the government have vowed they will wait no longer.

An Order in Council is expected before the new year which will push through measures to legalize private, consensual gay sex between adults in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Foreign Office minister, Baroness Scotland, said in a recent letter she had tried to encourage each territory to pass the necessary legislation themselves, and she was anxious that the British government avoid "imposing" its laws on its territories.

"We said that in the event of formal notification that they were unwilling to pass the necessary measures, we would have to consider making an Order in Council," the Baroness said. "I expect to do this before Christmas."

Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Tonge, who has lobbied intensely for a change in the law, said over the weekend, "The Government gave the Overseas Territories the chance to change the law themselves, but they have not. It is vital we keep up pressure to ensure the government proceeds with the Order as a matter of urgency."

Angela Mason, who heads the gay civil rights group Stonewall, told the Independent she absolutely supported forcing the reform through. "This is a very welcome initiative. Equality before the law is a basic human right wherever you live. We are delighted the Government is taking these rights seriously."

The newspaper reports the British government currently has its hands full with the battle over Age of Consent reform. There has been some recent movement on the issue of late, with conservative peer Baroness Young agreeing in principle to equality in age but now insisting anal intercourse be outlawed sex for boys and girls under 18.

The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, has insisted the measure will become law "one way or the other" by the end of this Parliamentary session. The Government intends to use the Parliament Act to force through the Bill if it is again rejected by peers.

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