Last edited: December 05, 2004

United Kingdom Lowers Gay Age of Consent

The Advocate, December 1, 2000

The government of British prime minister Tony Blair lowered the country’s gay age of consent Thursday by invoking a law that allows the administration to circumvent the House of Lords, which opposed the move. The government invoked the rarely used Parliament Act to reduce the gay age of consent from 18 to 16 in order to conform with the heterosexual age of consent. Efforts to reduce the gay age of consent have been repeatedly thwarted in the conservative House of Lords. "It is a reform which, in my personal view, is long overdue and is only right for a country that has a history of reform and challenging prejudice," said Home secretary Jack Straw, the United Kingdom’s top law enforcement officer. BBC Online reports that Baroness Young, who led the opposition in the House of Lords, termed the decision "a constitutional outrage." At a press conference she said, "This is a piece of legislation driven by metropolitan, London attitudes and is completely out of step with the rest of the country." A letter from 17 religious leaders sent to The [London] Daily Telegraph urged against changing the law. The letter—signed by George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury; Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England; and Yousof Bhailok, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain—said there are "strong moral and health objections" to changing the law.

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