Major supports compromise on homosexuals: The Prime Minister backs lowering the age of consent to 18. Anthony Bevins reports
Monday 19 July 1993
The Prime Minister first volunteered a public interest in the issue of homosexual law reform when he invited Sir Ian McKellen, the actor, to meet him at No 10 in September 1991.
Sir Ian, a founder member of Stonewall, a homosexual pressure group, was asked to give Mr Major a briefing on issues of concern, and he responded with a request for a Conservative election manifesto commitment to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals at 16.
Sir Ian said afterwards that the success of the meeting would be measured by the manifesto - which last year gave no such commitment.
However, the question of reform was put to Mr Major by a Conservative MP during a chance meeting in the Commons tea room last week, and one of those present said yesterday that the Prime Minister had indicated support for a compromise reduction in the age of consent - not to 16, but to 18.
That proposition could be delivered either by a Private Member's Bill, or by an amendment to the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill. One of the supporters of legal equality said yesterday, however, that it was important that reform should attract all- party support on a free vote, and that they should win.
Edwina Currie, the former Conservative health minister and a member of the Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality, said: 'If the latest research is true, and being gay is the same as being left-handed, then the case for discrimination is disappearing.'
Explaining Mr Major's apparent sympathy for the cause, she added: 'The Prime Minister is genuinely interested, and as a former London councillor, he will be well aware of the large number of people in the capital who suffer discrimination.'
If an all-party group did urge the Commons to resolve the problem, it is most likely that they would offer MPs two options - a reduction in the age of consent to 16, or 18, in that reverse order.
That would allow cautious reformers like Mr Major, to vote against 16, but in favour of 18. If both propositions were defeated, homosexual acts between men under 21 would remain illegal.
A reduction in the age to 18 would still present a number of difficulties: insofar as the discrimination remained between homosexuals and heterosexuals, it could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, and could face eventual challenge in the European Court. The gay and lesbian rights lobby wants nothing less than equalisation at 16.
- 5 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...