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Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 17:33 GMT

UK Politics

Guernsey lowers gay sex age to 18

Homosexuality has only be legal in Guernsey for the last 15 years

Politicians in the Channel Island of Guernsey have voted to lower the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18.

Members approved an amendment to the original requete, the equivalent of a Private Member's Bill, from Conseiller Carol Steere - which would have seen it reduced from 21 to 16.

The island's senior states committee has now been instructed to come back to the house within six months with detailed legislation.

The island's parliament, called the States of Deliberation, could still be forced to lower the age to sixteen.

In response to questions from some members, the procureur told the House that if the age for homosexuals is not equalised with that for heterosexuals the island may be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Equality and freedom

Homosexual acts were only legalised on the island 15 years ago.

Presenting her requete, Conseiller Steere told other members that the matter is one of equality and freedom.

But some members of the States opposed the idea.

Deputy Gerald Poat said that passing the bill would amount to legalising sodomy.

Campaigners for equality have compared discrimination against gay men in the island to anti-Semitism and racism.

Following Westminster

By coincidence, the vote in Guernsey came only days after MPs at Westminster voted to drop the age of homosexual consent from 18 to 16.

The change in the law will put the UK on an equal footing with the rest of Europe.

But despite the backing from MPs equalising the age of consent is likely to face fierce resistance in the House of Lords.

British peers threw out similar proposals last summer and may do so again.

This time, however, the government has promised to use the Parliament Act to force the change through.

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