September 1998

Hello again. My original intention this month was not to discuss politics again but in light of the vote in the Lords I've changed my mind.

As many of you will probably know the House of Lords rejected the amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill that would bring the homosexual age of consent in line with that of heterosexuals. Despite being passed by the government by a massive majority they were forced to drop the amendment to ensure that the Bill did not fail. Although I will admit that the Crime and Disorder bill was perhaps more important than the amendment it is rather frustrating that it could take up to two years for the new law to be passed. It is not that I am planning to have a sexual relationship any time in the near future, it's just a matter of principal.

This brings me to my main point. Despite having a largely gay friendly government in power reform is happening at a painfully slow pace. It seems quite possible that by the end of this parliament no significant legislation will have been passed.

For example, earlier this year, activists appealed to the government to include anti-homophobia clauses in new legislation on hate-crimes and discrimination. The official response from the Home Office was that including this would 'blur the anti-racist message' of the legislation (Crime and Disorder Bill and Human Rights Bill). Even if these claims were true it seems to be a statement from the government that some people deserve more protection than others. I in no way condone racism but do not believe that it is any worse than other forms of discrimination.

However, looking at further comments made by ministers on the same issue it becomes a little clearer what the government's true intention could be. The concern was expressed that adding these clauses would broaden the reach of the Human Rights Bill. The intention of this bill is to bring the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Up until the passing of this bill human rights cases were handled at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg at which the government had often lost cases. On notable example was over the age of consent where an unequal age was ruled illegal. This would indicate that the government is trying to avoid its Human Rights responsibilities by leaving legislation unspecific. Although it is likely that the government will bow to pressure in the future and pass such laws it is anther example of administrative sloth.

Rather than campaigning on individual issues it might be more useful to campaign for the speeding up and streamlining of the government system. In a society where change happens so rapidly it is unacceptable for social change to happen over periods of years.

Right, that's me finished for this month. Thanks to those who wrote to me about my last column, it's nice to know I'm being listened to.

You can contact me at:

Mail: EtaCarinae42@Hotmail.Com

ICQ#: 7290511

If you send me a mail I will reply, it just might take a while because I don't get much opportunity to write.

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