OutRage! and other queer activists besieged the House of Lords tonight (22nd July), blockading the exits and forcing peers to abandon their attempts to leave the building.
There were scuffles with police as protesters jumped barricades and ran through the gates in a bid get inside the Lords and confront those who had just voted by 289 to 122 against an equal age of consent for gay men, overturning last month’s House of Commons vote of 336 to 129 in favour of equality.
A startled Baroness Young, who led the successful attempt to reinstate a discriminatory gay age of consent of 18, was hustled back inside the Lords by phalanxes of police as OutRage! activists confronted her, shouting: “Shame! Shame! House of hatred! House of fear! Stop persecuting queers”.
Earlier, OutRage! activists and supporters had maintained a four-hour “VIGIL FOR EQUALITY” outside the House of Lords, during with the debate inside. They held aloft pink flags and placards emblazoned with the slogans: “16 for all”, “Queers demand equality”, and “Equalise gay age of consent”.
“OutRage! warned for months that the House of Lords was likely to reject equality”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!. “We were ridiculed and dismissed by other gay groups. Their absurd triumphalism after MP’s voted for 16 led to complacency.”
OutRage! is now calling on the Government to challenge the “antidemocratic” House of Lords. —
“The unelected House of Lords has no moral authority or democratic mandate to overturn the two-thirds vote in favour of equality by elected MP’s”, said Tatchell.
“If the Government allows itself to be pushed around by the Lords, we can kiss goodbye to democracy.
“This vote highlights the democratic deficit in our parliamentary system and demonstrates why the Lords should be replaced by an elected and accountable second chamber.
“The Home Secretary should stand up to the Lords by proposing a new amendment to reinstate equality. It would be an act of political cowardice for the Government to appease homophobic peers by ditching the equal age of consent”, said Tatchell.