Sunday, June 21, 1998 Published at 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Church opposes lowering age of consent
Carey: Backs his bishops
The Church of England is on collision course with the government after bishops condemned moves to lower the gay age of consent.
The protest from the bishops comes as MPs prepare for a free vote on Monday on the issue.
Gay rights campaigners believe they have the support of at least 430 MPs, a clear majority in favour of change.
The Prime Minister Tony Blair and Leader of the Opposition William Hague are expected to vote with the reform lobby.
But if the Church continues its opposition to the expected change, bishops could attempt to overturn the legislation it goes to the House of Lords.
The House of Bishops statement calls on leaders of both Church and State to protect people from "harm and exploitation" and to offer them a "vision of what is good".
The bishops stress that sexual relationships legislation should "set an example of what is good and be rooted in sound moral values".
"Pressures are at work to legitimise any and every lifestyle irrespective of any difference of value and quality between them," said the statement.
"These pressures should be resisted."
He said: "That is not to do down the small number of people who are gay. But what is the norm and right in God's eyes is what we want to encourage people into as much as possible."
Clash with campaigners
More than 100 gay rights groups are planning a vigil outside the House of Commons during the debate.
Active Christians in government, including the Home Secretary Jack Straw, are expected to back the legislation.
"Their support for the criminalisation of 16 and 17-year-old men involved in consenting gay relationships is cruel, oppressive and heartless," said Mr Tatchell.
"We hope Christian MPs will ignore the bishops call. Even if bishops do not approve of homosexuality, they have no right in a democratic and secular society to insist that the legal system imposes their morality on gay teenagers."
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament