Politics: MP aims to lower gay sex age limit

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The Independent Online
AN EQUAL age of consent for gays, lesbians and heterosexuals was backed by a Labour MP and her gay son yesterday - ahead of a Commons vote that is expected to push the reform through next month.

Campaigning for a reduction in the age of consent for gays and lesbians from 18 to 16, Ann Keen, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, told a London press conference: "What parent would want their child to suffer in any way, to feel different or ashamed? We need to give them self-esteem."

Her son, Mark Lloyd-Fox, 31, director of development at The Commonwealth Institute, said: "It's difficult for all lesbian and gay people when the environment around you is bombarding you with everything heterosexual. To grow up with that being the expectation of the norm, and to feel different, and then to have that legal difference that makes it feel criminal, that makes things much more difficult."

The age of consent for gays and lesbians was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994, amending the Sexual Offences Act, which legalised gay sex for the first time in 1967. But a Commons free vote to create a common age of consent was defeated by 307 votes to 280. Given the strength of Labour's majority, it is expected that MPs will vote overwhelmingly for equality before the law when an attempt is made to amend the Crime and Disorder Bill next month.

Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, said she was confident that if it went through the Commons, the Lords, too, would back it.

"I don't think there will be any attempt by the Right to bring out the backwoodsmen and overturn this amendment," she said.

OutRage!, another lesbian and gay rights group, will this morning be staging a protest outside the London Oratory School, on the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Section 28 ban on the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.

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