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RELIGION | Religion IN BRIEF

Bid to Lower Consent Age for Gays Fails

July 25, 1998|Religion News Service

After a campaign led by many of Britain's religious leaders, the unelected House of Lords--the upper chamber in Parliament--has voted against lowering the age of consent for homosexual conduct from 18 to 16.

The House of Commons voted 333 to 129 last week to lower the age to bring it into line with the age of consent for heterosexual relations. That vote came as part of an overall package of changes in the country's criminal laws. But the House of Lords voted 290 to 122 in favor of an amendment to overturn the change.

The House of Lords cannot kill legislation passed by the House of Commons, but can delay it. After the vote, the government indicated that it would drop the provision on the age of consent rather than risk further delay on the overall bill.

The campaign to overturn the House of Commons vote was led by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, a member of the upper chamber. He was joined in his opposition by religious leaders across the religious spectrum.

"Do we really want to open the floodgates of suffering even further than they are already?" asked Lord Jakobovits, Britain's chief rabbi and a member of the House of Lords.

The Evangelical Alliance UK also voiced support for the effort to override the House of Commons.

"Our objection to a lower age of consent for homosexuals has nothing to do with the desire to see young people jailed," it said in a statement. But any reduction in the age of consent "sends a signal to all young people that it is acceptable to experiment sexually at whatever age you want," said Martyn Eden, public affairs director of the Alliance.

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