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U.K. gov’t faces legal action over homosexual age of consent

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LONDON (BP)–The British government faced a legal challenge Feb. 28 to its use late last year of special legislation to force through a law lowering the age of consent for homosexual sex, CNSNews.com reported.

Three fathers — a businessman, an Anglican clergyman and a former member of the House of Lords — brought a joint action before the High Court in London, asking it to strike down legislation that makes sex legal at 16 for homosexuals, as for heterosexuals.

The businessman, John Gouriet, said he was a victim of abuse 55 years ago and knew the risks “from bitter experience.”

The new law, he said, would open the door for older men to abuse vulnerable boys. “Pedophiles know how to manipulate young boys into giving their consent. That is why young people need the protection of the law and responsible guidance.”

The government last November used a legal mechanism called the Parliament Act — used only a handful of times over the past century, and usually on matters of grave importance — to override opposition in the upper, unelected House of Lords and force through the law.

The upper chamber had earlier offered an amendment that would have made all homosexual acts except for anal sex legal at 16, but the government rejected the compromise.

The second applicant, George Curry of an Anglican parish in northeast England, noted that the government had never given the House of Commons the opportunity to debate the Lords’ amendment, which would at least have protected young boys and girls from anal sex — “this most dangerous sexual activity.”

Curry said the application was being brought on behalf of vulnerable young people whose protection “has been put at even greater risk by this homosexual rights measure.”

The third applicant is Lord Clifford, a Catholic and former lawmaker in the House of Lords.

The case lodged before the court Feb. 28 will hinge on complex constitutional questions, attorney Paul Conrathe told CNSNews.com.

“In a nutshell it’s that the government exceeded its powers by relying on the 1949 Parliament Act” — a law which itself was never passed by the House of Lords.

The government in November had forced through the legislation, “disregarding advice and safeguards provided by the House of Lords” in the process, he said.

Conrathe said the court would first decide whether there was a case for a full hearing, possibly hearing oral evidence in order to make that decision. If there was a case, a full hearing would be scheduled in several months’ time.

The Christian Institute, a British charity, last year spearheaded a campaign of opposition to the lowering of the age of homosexual consent.

The CI’s director, Colin Hart, told CNSNews.com Feb. 28 that anal sex is an issue of particular concern.

“The problem was the bill had a knock-on effect for girls. In lowering the age of buggery [anal sex] for boys, it also lowered it for girls. There’s absolutely no lobbying for that at all, no group campaigning for it. The House of Lords’ compromise would have kept the age of consent for buggery at 18, for boys and girls.”

Hart said anal sex is regarded as the most dangerous sexual act, the one most likely to result in transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

According to one academic study, anal sex carries an HIV infection risk 2,700 times that of vaginal intercourse.

The other concern for the Christian Institute relates to the abuse of young men.

“The focus of the debates on the government’s bill has been on ‘gay rights,’ ” it said in an earlier statement. “The problem is that the same law which allows 16-year-olds to commit homosexual acts together also allows a 40-year-old man to manipulate a 16-year-old boy.”
Goodenough is CNSNews.com’s London bureau chief. Used by permission.

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  • Patrick Goodenough