Gay MPs blamed for loss of 16 vote: OutRage plans civil disobedience to win equal age of consent but resists call for 'outing'

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The Independent Online
RECRIMINATIONS continued to spill out yesterday over the lowering of the age of consent for male homosexuals to 18.

While gay rights campaigners blamed Labour MPs and unidentified gay and bisexual MPs for not voting for equalisation of the age of consent at 16, Tory traditionalists threatened a rebellion against the Government's flagship law and order Bill because the age had been brought down from 21.

Just 14 more Labour MPs supporting Edwina Currie's age-16 amendment would have secured the change on Monday. Particular anger was felt by gay campaigners at what they saw as a betrayal by Labour's blind health spokesman, David Blunkett, who voted for 18. A spokesperson for the moderate gay pressure group Stonewall said: 'He faces discrimination and victimisation every day of his life, yet he voted to allow other people to suffer the same fate.'

The more militant group, OutRage, reserved its anger for unidentified homosexual MPs who, it claimed, failed to vote for 16. Its spokesperson, Peter Tatchell, said he had received dozens of requests to 'out' MPs who voted against. 'We calculated that 12 gay or bisexual MPs voted against 16, which we regard as incredible hypocrisy. But despite the pressure we are not planning any outing campaign, although we recognise there is a big grass-roots opinion in favour of it.'

OutRage has pledged to lead a campaign of civil disobedience, beginning with a march on the House of Commons on 14 March. Stonewall campaigners are to write to all MPs who did not vote for 16, asking them to justify their position.

A hard core of Tories, some also angry about Monday night's vote against capital punishment, threatened yesterday to vote against the Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill. It includes most of the 27 measures against crime proposed by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary. The MPs are expected to back off eventually.

Mr Howard trod a middle course yesterday, by insisting that the law forbidding homosexual relations under 18 'must be enforced' but adding that all law had to be applied sensibly. It was conceded privately by a Whitehall source that current police and Crown Prosecution Service practice was likely to continue: only serious cases involving breach of trust are likely to be pursued.

The Pope yesterday attacked homosexuality and the recognition of homosexual 'marriages', in a letter to families which also restated in fierce terms his opposition to contraception and divorce, writes Andrew Brown.

'So-called 'safe sex', which is touted by the 'civilisation of technology' is actually, in view of the overall requirements of the person, radically not safe, indeed it is extremely dangerous,' said the Pope, in a rare letter addressed directly to the Catholic faithful rather than to their clergy.

The Greenland parliament yesterday approved the civil 'marriage' of homosexuals and lesbians, Reuter reports. The decision is in line with laws in Denmark, which administers Greenland. The 'partnership contracts' put homosexual couples on the same legal footing as heterosexuals. But they are barred from adopting children and lesbians cannot have artificial insemination.

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