A huge candlelight “VIGIL FOR EQUALITY” is being organised by OutRage! outside Parliament from 6-10 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th April, when the House of Lords votes on the age of consent.
With placards emblazoned with the words “Equalise Consent! Abolish the Lords!” and “Let Young Gays Love Their Peers”, OutRage! is holding a peaceful, dignified protest to support equality. Stonewall have been invited to participate in the Vigil. Other gay groups and individuals are also urged to take part, and to bring candles.
“A big turnout is important to show the Lords and the Government that the gay community will not settle for anything less than equal treatment”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
It is expected that peers, led by Baroness Young of Farnworth, will again veto 16, overturning MPs’ recent 183 majority in favour of ending discrimination.
“The unelected House of Lords has no democratic mandate to reverse January’s 313 to 130 vote by elected MP’s in favour of equality”, said Tatchell. (Last July, the Lords voted 289 to 122 against equality.)
“The way the Lords have ridden roughshod over the will of elected MP’s highlights the democratic deficit in our parliamentary system. It demonstrates the urgency of replacing the Lords with an elected and accountable second chamber”, added Tatchell.
While supporting an equal age of consent, OutRage! opposes the clauses of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill which penalise abuse of trust. They fail to give young people adequate protection against sexual abuse and unjustifiably criminalise consenting relationships.
OutRage! is calling on the Government and the House of Lords to scrap the criminalisation of consensual relations between adults and young people under 18 in their care. “Teachers and care workers should not be punished with up to two years’ jail for a genuine, loving relationship”, said Tatchell.
OutRage! also wants the Bill amended to require all schools to provide earlier, better quality sex education which, it argues, is the key to combating abuse. “Current sex education does not teach pupils how to deal with sex pests and sexual harassment. Young people need to be empowered with the skill and confidence to resist unwanted sexual advances and to report abuse if it occurs”, said Tatchell.
The “Vigil for Equality” announced in February, is now being promoted additionally by the NUJ and NUS.
Baroness Young has tabled an amendment to the formal “That the Bill now be read a second time” motion for the Bill, replacing “now” with “this day six months”. — The “six months’ amendment” tactic is fairly well known in both Houses, and is a polite way of killing a bill by making it run out of time. If this is accepted there will not be enough time to pass the Bill before the end of the session, and the Bill will therefore fall.
Anyone wanting a copy of a poster or A5 flyer advertising the Vigil to copy and distribute should send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The files will be sent in RTF (Rich Text Format): guaranteed to be virus-free, since this format does not permit the use of macros.
Contrast with Other Countries
U.S.A. – “Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.” (From President Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address, 19-January-1999)
South Africa – Lesbians and gay men and their immigrant partners should be free to live together as family, the Cape High Court ruled, (12-February-1999). Judge Dennis Davis on behalf of a full bench stated that “The Constitution seeks to promote a society in which diversity of identity is respected and protected. The [Aliens Control Act] prefers certain forms of life partnership over others … this cannot be justified.” The Government has now been given 12 months to recognise our relationships by amending the Aliens Control Act.