UK Parliment lowers age of consent for gay teens

In an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill, MP's voted at Westminster this evening, 22nd June, by 336 votes to 129 (a majority of 207) to set the age of consent for homosexual sex at 16, on a par with heterosexuals.

Tony Blair, William Hague, and Paddy Ashdown were all absent.

After 31 years of discrimination since the partial decriminalisation of gay male sex by the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, the Equality Alliance welcomes this long-overdue milestone, enshrining in U.K. law the principle that lesbians and gay men deserve parity with heterosexuals.

"The equalisation of the age of consent must now be followed by further legislation to ban antigay discrimination, and to eradicate the long list of statutory provisions which continue to deny equality of treatment and opportunity to lesbians and gay men in this country", said Ian Farmer of the Equality Alliance.

"The first priority must be to repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, replacing this with the requirement for the National Curriculum to recognise and reflect the equal validity of homosexuality. The urgency for this is demonstrated by suicide statistics, where the disproportionate figure for lesbian and gay teenagers is horrendously high.

"Other areas where inequalities remain to be redressed are: -- equal treatment in employment, including the Armed Forces; -- equal validity for family life, (gay partnerships and parenting rights); -- equal treatment in service provision, (health, pensions, policing, prisons, ...). This is not an exhaustive list."

The Vigil outside Westminster, called by the Equality Alliance, attracted a crowd of supporters estimated by police at around 2000; not counting those who were packing the Strangers' Gallery to watch the debate, or those in committee rooms within the Palace made available to Alliance supporters at short notice through the kind intervention of Stonewall.

After the vote, Angela Mason of Stonewall concurred with Equality Alliance members that the abolition of Section 28 would be the next campaign priority.

(Joe Ashton's amendment, which would have introduced an age of consent of 18 where one party was in a position of authority was rejected by 234 votes to 194.)

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