Letter: Gays and the law

Sir: The Independent has always been well to the fore in advocating gay law reform. It is, therefore, a matter of some concern that you believe that in civilian life the age of consent is "the last serious piece of legislation that treats homosexuality as a lesser, shameful expression of human love" (Andrew Marr on the gay age of consent, 8 October). Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 should be repealed at the earliest opportunity. The current Sexual Offences Acts are riddled with anti-gay provisions.

It is not just the criminal law which needs reform. Under employment legislation there is nothing illegal about rejecting a job applicant on the grounds of sexuality. Unfair treatment of lesbians and gay men once in employment is not itself illegal. There is an urgent need for a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Act which will amend both the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act.

And in the long run - probably ten years at least - there is the whole debate on gay marriages and domestic partnerships.

It was Lord Lester of Herne Hill who said last May, "The way in which a society treats unpopular minorities is a litmus test of the extent of its civilisation." We have still some way to go before the UK can claim to have passed that test.

MARTIN BOWLEY QC

President, the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group

London WC1

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