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GIBRALTAR, March 31, 2010 – News that the British Government has filed to intervene in the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing on the gay age of consent issue has been welcomed by Gibraltar Equality Rights Groups (GGR).
Felix Alvarez, the chairman of the Group said this morning that “the UK, the party responsible for this matter under international law, has once more made its position clear regarding the legal obligation for the age of consent to be equalised”.
As the law stands at the moment, the age of consent in Gibraltar for heterosexuals and gay women is 16, while it is 18 for gay men. And the Group has been fighting the inequality since 2001, with Gibraltar First Minister Peter Caruana refusing to address the inequality despite the intervention of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
In June last year, the Gibraltar Parliament rejected a private member bill to reduce the age of consent for gay men to 16.
“Mr Caruana would do exactly the same as the UK is doing, were he in their shoes,” Mr. Alvarez suggested by Email to UK Gay News. “Perhaps he hasn’t yet understood that the British government is under an inescapable legal obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights to ensure there is no inequality in this law in Gibraltar.
“Indeed, two years ago, HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] was given notice by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the highest sanctioning body in that organisation, to ensure this came about.
“Almost a year ago I publicly warned that the path the Chief Minister was treading could provoke a confrontation between Gibraltar and Britain on this matter, a situation which would be of great disservice to Gibraltarians.
“Nonetheless,” Mr Alvarez continued, “Mr Caruana did not present a Bill guaranteeing equalisation would take place. Instead, he used the delaying tactic of a free vote, risking an uncertain outcome, thus ignoring the legally binding nature of the requirement.
“For a Chief Minister of Gibraltar to place the whole community so close to direct intervention by the UK, and despite his much-touted new Constitution, is irresponsible to say the least.
“One can only conclude that Mr Caruana cares very little for the wider interests of Gibraltar in its UK relationship when it comes to promoting his on-going crusade at tax payers’ expense against the Gibraltar gay community in pursuing what is a sectarian homophobic agenda. Gibraltar is for all – and the Chief Minister must look after the interests of all its citizens, without exclusion,” Mr Alvarez concluded.
On Monday, GGR welcomed the news that UK dependent territory Guernsey had passed a law equalising the age of consent.
“This is one further example – closer to home – of the increasingly unacceptable injustice which is enshrined in any unequal age of consent law,” Mr. Alvarez said. “Guernsey, like the UK, has opted for a consent age of 16.
“The arguments whether medical, psychological, social or justice-wise seem to hold water not only at UK level, but indeed across the majority of European states.
“GGR itself has never advocated any particular age level for consent, but instead has insisted over the past nine years since it started to campaign on the issue, that equality is the fundamental point at heart.
Gay Group Wins Long Battle for Housing Equality as Government Drops Same-Sex Ban. The ‘Rock’s’ lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender equality group, GGR, was celebrating last night following the government’s announcement that it has changed its policy in housing allocation to recognise the right of a lesbian couple to joint tenancy of a government flat. (UK Gay News, March 25, 2010)
Gibraltar Votes Down Bill to Equalise Gay Age of Consent. The Gibraltar Parliament today threw out a private member’s Bill that sought to equalise the age of consent for gay men, which is currently 18. The age of consent for heterosexuals and lesbians is 16.(UK Gay News, June 18, 2009)
Council of Europe Publishes Gibraltar Gay Discrimination Issue. The official website of the Council of Europe has published the question tabled by UK Liberal Democrat MP Michael Hancock for reply by the Committee of Ministers regarding discrimination of gays in Gibraltar. (UK Gay News, January 15, 2008)
Cashman Confirms Brown to Look Into Gay Age of Consent Issue. MEP Michael Cashman confirmed this afternoon the details of his brief meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown in which he raised the issue of the unequal age of consent in Gibraltar. (UK Gay News, October 22, 2007)
Gay Rights Group Welcomes Intervention of British Prime Minister. The Gibraltar Equality Rights group, GGR, this afternoon welcomed the intervention of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown over the inequality of the UK’s self-governing overseas territory’s age of consent laws. (UK Gay News, October 16, 2007)
PM Brown To Take Up Gay Age of Consent Inequality in Gibraltar. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to take-up the matter of the unequal age of consent still in place in Gibraltar, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. (UK Gay News, October 16, 2007)