Law Reform

Same-sex Marriage challenege

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger had their legal application dismissed by the High Court. They had applied to have their Canadian marriage recognised in the UK. London, 31 July 2006.

© OutRage! 1990-2010. You are free to use this photo to illustrate news stories and articles about OutRage!, the lesbian and gay human rights group, with credit to the group and photographer. For all other uses, please inquire. Photos: Brett Lock, OutRage!

Home Office Sex Offences Review Inadequate

ALL CONSENSUAL OFFENCES SHOULD BE REPEALED

“The Home Office Sex Offences reform proposals do not go far enough”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“All consenting, victimless sexual offences –homosexual and heterosexual– should be abolished, including the criminalisation of consensual adult pornography and sadomasochism.

“The law on the age of consent should take into account the fact that over 50 percent of young people have their first sexual experience before they are 16. Consenting sex involving partners under 16 should not be prosecuted, providing they are of similar ages and there is no evidence of pressure, manipulation or exploitation.”

While the proposed repeal of Victorian-era laws that discriminate against homosexuals is long overdue and most welcome, the Home Office recommendations ignore two aspects of homophobic discrimination. –

GAY SEX STILL CLASSIFIED AS A “SERIOUS” SEX CRIME

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1991, most consensual gay offences are defined as ’serious’ sex crimes on a par with rape, indecent assault and child abuse. These victimless gay offences should be deleted from the 1991 Act.

GAY SEX STILL BRANDED “CHILD ABUSE”

The Sex Offenders Act 1997 classifies consenting gay relationships involving men in their late teens as child sex abuse, but the equivalent heterosexual behaviour is not even a crime.

A 20 year old man who has consenting gay sex with a man aged 17 is categorised as a pædophile and forced to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register. In contrast, a 19 year old heterosexual man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl aged 13 does not have to sign the register. The Sex Offenders Act needs urgent amendment to end its anti-gay bias.

Age of Consent Bill Flawed

5 YEARS’ JAIL FOR TEACHERS IS CONDEMNED AS “DRACONIAN”

Home Office says Consensual Gay Offenders must remain on Sex Register

Teachers could be jailed for up to five years for consenting relationships with pupils, under the “abuse of trust” clause in the age of consent Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.

The abuse of trust clause is being condemned as “draconian” by OutRage!, who are urging MPs to register their disapproval of the clause.

“Sex between teachers and pupils is wrong. But it should be punished as a disciplinary offence under the teacher’s professional code of conduct, not by imprisonment”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“Together with the main teaching unions, we oppose the criminalisation of consensual sex. There is no justification for punishing teachers with up to five years jail for a consenting relationship that may be based on sincere love and commitment.

“Not all such relationships are predatory or exploitative. In the case of a young teacher and an older pupil, there may be only a few years difference in their ages. The relationship could have developed entirely naturally and spontaneously, without any manipulation or abuse.”

GAY CONSENT OFFENDERS WILL REMAIN ON SEX REGISTER

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke MP has said that, even after the equalisation of the age of consent, men convicted of consenting gay sex with 16 and 17 year olds will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register. His admission comes in a letter to Brian Iddon MP, dated 2nd February 2000.

“Under the Sex Offenders’ Act 1997, a man aged 20 who has a consensual gay relationship with a 17 year old is branded a pædophile and required to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register. No such penalty applies to equivalent heterosexual behaviour. Sex between men and women in the same circumstances is not even an offence.

“The age of consent Bill must be amended to remove from the Sex Offenders’ Register men convicted of consenting homosexual relationships with 16 and 17 year olds.

“Once consent is equalised at 16, the offence for which they were convicted and forced to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register will cease to exist. It is therefore inappropriate for them to remain on the Register”, said Mr. Tatchell.

OutRage! sends Section 28 Proposals to Scotland’s Donald Dewar

REPEAL BILL MUST BE AMENDED

Guidelines Needed to Reassure Anxious Parents

OutRage! has written to Scotland’s First Minister, Donald Dewar, urging him to include in the Bill for the repeal of Section 28 legally-binding guidelines on the teaching of sexuality issues in schools.

OutRage! says the guidelines are necessary to reassure anxious parents and refute the campaign of misinformation being peddled by Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause lobby.

A letter has been sent by OutRage! to Donald Dewar and Wendy Alexander at the Scottish Executive, proposing the following guidelines for inclusion in an amended Section 28 repeal Bill. — Schools should not promote or encourage any form of sexuality.

All sexual orientations must be discussed in an honest, factual manner.
Pupils should be offered practical advice on how to refuse and report unwanted sexual advances, practise safer sex to stop the spread of HIV, and how to sustain, happy, fulfilling relationships.

There must be a legal obligation on schools to educate students to make responsible sexual and emotional choices based on mutual consent, respect, and love.

Teachers should be required to challenge prejudiced, intolerant antigay attitudes, combat homophobic teasing and bullying, and provide supportive advice and counselling to vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils.

The aim must be to encourage understanding and acceptance of other people –heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual– and to create a caring, compassionate society that values and appreciates everyone.

“I challenge Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause campaigners to disagree with anything in our proposed guidelines. If they accept this compromise, I am ready to work with them to press Donald Dewar to amend the Section 28 Bill”, said Mr. Tatchell.

Government Lifts Military Ban – Call for Action to Combat Homophobia in the Military

Armed Forces urged to educate against prejudice and make homophobia a disciplinary offence

The Government’s decision to lift the military ban on lesbians and gays is a welcome first step towards eradicating homophobia from the Armed Forces, according to OutRage!.

But OutRage! warns that deeply entrenched homophobic attitudes will continue to force many gay people out of the services, unless the military authorities take tough new action to combat the victimisation of homosexual personnel.

“Homophobic harassment should be a disciplinary offence under the military code”, says OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.

“Military training and education programmes should challenge antigay attitudes and encourage acceptance of homosexual servicemen and women.

“What is needed is an educational campaign –similar to the military’s current efforts against racism– to create a safe, sympathetic environment for gay members of the forces.

“Without these initiatives to stamp out queer-bashing, the military will remain a hostile institution. Despite the ending of the ban on gays, homophobic abuse will pressure many homosexuals to resign.”

OutRage! is calling for a crackdown on homophobia as part of a comprehensive action plan to eradicate all forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from all minority communities.

“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values which they exist to defend. Any toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.

“Human rights awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War under the auspices of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people”, said Mr. Tatchell.

Repeal of Section 28 “inadequate”

Schools must be legally required to combat homophobic bullying and to promote understanding and tolerance

The new legislation to repeal Section 28 is being criticised by OutRage! as “inadequate”.

“Scrapping Section 28 is no guarantee that teachers will challenge anti-gay prejudice and give adequate support to vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils”, said John Beeson of OutRage!.

“The Bill must be amended to place a legal obligation on schools to combat homophobic bullying, provide factual information about homosexual issues, and ensure the welfare of gay students.

“Without this legal requirement, many teachers will continue to shy away from dealing with gay issues in an upfront, honest manner.

“While no school should promote either homosexuality or heterosexuality, they do have a duty to promote understanding and tolerance. That duty needs to be enshrined in law”, said Mr. Beeson.

Age of Consent Bill welcomed, but criticised

The new Bill fails to protect teenagers against sex abuse

The Government’s proposed Age of Consent Bill, announced at the time of the Queen’s Speech, has been welcomed by OutRage! as the final round in the 32-year campaign to end discrimination in the consent laws.

“Over the last three decades, more than a thousand gay men have been imprisoned for consenting sex that was not a crime between heterosexuals”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“A 19-year-old teenager recently served a nine-month sentence for a consenting gay relationship with a 16-year-old. This new legislation will put an end to such injustices.”

But OutRage! is criticising the government for failing to protect vulnerable teenagers adequately against sex abuse.

“The new Bill should have included measures to make earlier, better quality sex education mandatory in all schools”, said Mr. Tatchell.

“Empowering young people with sexual knowledge, skills and confidence is the best way to combat abusive relationships, cut teen pregnancies and prevent the spread of HIV. The lack of Government action to improve sex education is a serious omission from this legislation.”

OutRage! has also condemned the abuse of trust proposals in the age of consent Bill, which penalise adults in a position of authority, influence or trust who have sex with young people in their care

“These relationships are inappropriate, but it is wrong to criminalise consenting sex. Jailing a young teacher for up to five years for what may be a loving, sincere relationship with an older pupil is unjust and draconian.

“Relationships between teachers and pupils may sometimes develop naturally and spontaneously, without involving any element of exploitation or abuse. Such relationships should be dealt with through employment disciplinary procedures, not by criminal sanctions”, said Mr. Tatchell.

Pride March: Pinocchio Blair – Labour’s broken promises

 

“The Labour Party is concerned with grave realities, not with picturesque fairy tales. … Practical men and women will consider, not fables regarding tomorrow, but the facts of today. … They will judge the present Government, as governments should be judged, not by its words, but by its deeds — by its achievements, its actions and its omissions.”

Labour Manifesto, ‘Labour and the Nation’, 1929
Reprinted in ‘The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Protest’, pp.98-102

A giant photo of Tony Blair with a long Pinocchio nose will be carried by OutRage! on this Saturday’s 28th annual Lesbian & Gay Pride March.

OutRage! is portraying Tony Blair as Pinocchio to highlight Labour’s broken promises on lesbian and gay human rights. The blown-up, digitally-enhanced photo of Pinocchio Blair is captioned with the words “LIAR!” and “BROKEN PROMISES”.

On 12 occasions since May 1997, the Labour Government has blocked homosexual equality and endorsed the discriminatory status quo. This directly contradicts Tony Blair’s pledge to the 1997 Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival that Labour would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.

OutRage! will assemble at 11:30 a.m. at the Queen Mother’s Gates, at the end of South Carriage Drive, Hyde Park Corner, SW1. The March leaves from this point at 12 noon.

As well as the main large photo of Pinocchio Blair, OutRage! placards with smaller versions of the same image will highlight six gay equality issues on which Labour has taken “NO ACTION”, thereby failing to honour its pledge to eradicate discrimination:

  • homophobic hate crimes,
  • Section 28,
  • the military ban,
  • partnership rights,
  • protection against discrimination at work,
  • parenting rights.

In addition to Labour’s broken promise to end discrimination, OutRage! has two other themes at Pride this year:

  • tackling the prejudice that led to the Soho bomb
  • commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which sparked the modern movement for queer liberation.

OutRage! will be carrying photos of the carnage at the Admiral Duncan pub with the slogan “Homophobia Kills!”, and a huge banner reading: “Remember – Stonewall was a riot!”.

Twelve times since May 1997, Labour has torpedoed initiatives for homosexual equality.

Prior to the 1997 election, Labour made three very specific pledges on lesbian and gay human rights:

  1. HATE CRIMES - On 19 February 1997, at a Stonewall-sponsored public meeting at the House of Commons, Jack Straw promised swift action against homophobic hate crimes. Last year, however, he vetoed an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would have extended the tough new penalties for race hate attacks to all hate crimes, including those motivated by homophobia.
  2. SECTION 28 - At the same Stonewall meeting, Straw pledged that Labour would repeal Section 28. Since coming to power, Labour has refused to say when or how Section 28 will be abolished. Now, Labour’s only commitments are to get rid of Section 28 “sometime in the next five years” and “when an appropriate legislative vehicle becomes available”.
  3. MILITARY BAN - Before the 1997 election, Labour publicly declared its intention to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. Today, in contrast, the Government is fighting in the European Court of Human Rights to maintain discrimination against lesbian and gay people in the armed forces; and last year in the European Court of Justice it fought successfully to uphold the right of the military to deny homosexuals equal treatment.

Immediately after the 1997 election, Tony Blair made a general promise –in a statement read out at that year’s Pride Festival by Culture Secretary, Chris Smith MP– that his Government would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.

This commitment is contradicted by Labour’s repeated refusal to support gay equality measures:

  1. PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION - Last year, Labour voted down new Clause 10 of the Human Rights Rights Act, which sought to ensure that the anti-discrimination provisions of the Act would be interpreted to include a prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.
  2. EQUALITY AT WORK - Labour has twice scuppered legislation to stop discrimination against lesbians and gays in the workplace. It blocked the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill in 1997, and in April this year it thwarted an amendment to the Employment Relations Bill.
  3. SEXUAL OFFENCES - During the passage of the Crime & Disorder Bill last year, Labour manoeuvred to prevent attempts by backbenchers to scrap three sexual offences laws that apply only to gay sex: the gross indecency statute, the criminalisation of gay sex involving the presence of more than two people, and the homophobic bias of the Sex Offenders Act, which results in men convicted of consenting homosexual relationships with 16 and 17 year olds being branded as child sex abusers, while men involved in heterosexual relations with people of the same age are not penalised under the Act.
  4. AGE OF CONSENT - Labour has made parliamentary time available for a free vote: but the Government is refusing to officially endorse an equal age of consent, preferring to keep it an issue of individual conscience, whereby Labour MPs are free to vote for or against equality according to their own whims and fancies. In contrast, Labour never leaves issues of black and women’s equality to a free vote. It insists that all Labour MPs vote against discrimination.
  5. MORATORIUM ON PROSECUTIONS - After the huge House of Commons majority for an equal age of consent was overturned by the unelected House of Lords in July last year, Jack Straw refused to use his discretionary powers to initiate a moratorium on the prosecution of 16 and 17 year old gay men and their partners, insisting that prosecutions must continue because it is “the law of the land”.
  6. EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES - In May, the Government prevented attempts to toughen the equal opportunities powers of the new Greater London Authority, including its powers to promote gay equality and tackle homophobic discrimination.

This makes a total of 12 separate occasions in the last 26 months when Labour has sabotaged measures for lesbian and gay equality.

OutRage! supports the Guardian’s ‘Freedom of Information’ Campaign

“Under Jack Straw’s flawed legislation, the Government and police will have discretionary power to withhold information on human rights abuses,” said OutRage! spokesman Peter Tatchell.

“The bungled police investigation into the still unsolved queer-bashing murder of gay actor Michael Boothe in 1990 will probably remain shrouded in official secrecy; as will the recent homophobic harassment waged by officers at London’s West End Central police station against their gay colleagues.

“Also likely to be exempt is information on the formulation of Government policy regarding its refusal in April to protect homosexuals against discrimination at work; and its current strategy of fighting in the European Court of Human Rights to maintain the ban on gays in the military.”

Pledge your support to the Guardian campaign, and tell them about your experiences: freedom@guardian.co.uk
or write, marking the envelope FoI campaign, to
Jamie Wilson, The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R

Queer the Vote for Europe – Elections on 10th June

Lesbian and gay electors are being urged to “Queer The Vote” in the European elections, on Thursday, 10th June 1999.

The call comes from OutRage!, who are urging gay people to vote against parties that support homophobic discrimination, and in favour of those that promote equality.

“The parties should judged by their actions, not their words”, says Stephen Kristian of OutRage!. “Labour professes support for gay equality, but has repeatedly blocked attempts to end antigay discrimination.

“If you want to keep homophobic laws, vote Labour. People who want gay equality should vote for a party that matches its progay sentiments with parliamentary action.

“The Labour Government is the main obstacle to gay equality. Tony Blair has the power to legislate homosexual human rights, but he is refusing to so.

“Ten per cent of the electorate is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Queer votes could influence the outcome of the European elections. It is important that the gay community uses its political power to secure the election of gay-friendly MEPs to the European Parliament”, said Kristian.

LABOUR IS BLOCKING EQUALITY

According to Peter Tatchell of Outrage!: “On eight occasions since its election in May 1997, Labour has torpedoed measures to remedy homophobic discrimination.

“Labour is enforcing the ban on lesbians and gays in the military, and has twice killed off proposals to protect homosexuals against discrimination in employment.

“Last year, the Government vetoed action against homophobic hate crimes, and it blocked a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.

“Jack Straw scuppered attempts to scrap the offence of gross indecency and the criminalisation of gay sex involving the presence of more than two people.

“Labour is refusing to give the new Greater London Authority the power to pursue equal opportunities policies, including for gays and lesbians”, said Tatchell.

Straw has hitherto refused even to consult with the LGBT community, apart from secret negotiations with Stonewall, who do not claim to be democratic or representative.