GAY FIGHTS

Unknown

5 March 1994

Melody Maker

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Submitted by: Inge Klinkers

SUEDE'S SIMON GILBERT, Boy George, Richard Fairbrass and Boff from Chumbawamba have this week spoken out against the lowering of the gay age of consent to 18 rather than 16.

They are among many music industry figures and gay activists who have reacted angrily to Parliament's refusal to pass an equalising age of consent measure to form part of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Tory MP Edwina Currie's amendment to make consenting gay sex legal from the age of 16 - the same as for heterosexuals - was narrowly defeated by 27 votes.

MPs then voted to reduce the homosexual age of consent from 21 to 18, by 427 to 162 votes.

"I was really disappointed by the amount of Labour MPs that voted against the Bill. I expected it of the Tories," said Boy George, one of over 6,000 people attending the Candlelight Vigil outside the Commons on the night of the vote (February 21).

Some 35 Labour MPs voted against the equal opportunities measure, while 42 Tories voted for 16.

"The argument that little boys need protecting and little girls don't is ludicrous," added George.

Simon Gilbert from Suede (above), who had appeared with Parliamentary lobby group Stonewall in the run-up to the debate, was furious at the result. "The outcome is an insult to humanity and to British democracy. It has, as predicted, reinforced prejudice against gay people as second-class citizens. The outcome has achieved absolutely nothing, apart from causing immense anger amongst many people. The British Government should feel ashamed of themselves," he stated.

The openly gay drummer was having an "16" T-shirt made for Suede's performance of "Stay Together" on the February 24 edition of "Top Of The Pops".

Richard Fairbrass from Right Said Fred commented: "I didn't think they'd have the guts to go for 16. It's in the nature of the House Of Commons that they all follow. There are no leaders there. Take Michael Howard - a few hundred years ago, he'd have been the man with the rope. He just plays to the gallery.

"There are no moral dimensions to their arguments other than loose ideas of Back To Basics. It's a plain fact that if you're a democrat and believe in equal rights under the law, there was no philosophical basis for not making it 16. No matter how they couch it, it's clear that this decision was not democratic."

Boff from Chumbawamba, supporters of lesbian and gay rights since 1988's anti-gay Clause 28 law was passed, said: "Most young people will carry on exploring their sexuality anyway. These laws are just designed to make people frightened, to stop you getting up to what you want in the privacy of your own home."

Protesters on the night (right) clambered over crowd barriers and laid siege to Parliament's big wooden doors when the "compromise" vote was announced at 10.35pm. A minute's silence to commemorate the life of film-maker and Smiths/Pet Shop Boys/Suede collaborator Derek Jarman had occurred at 8pm, and a carnival-type atmosphere had developed throughout the cold winter's evening.

In scenes unprecedented in the Commons forecourt in over a century, police were pinned against the doors for over an hour, while one protester scaled one of the griffin statues that flank the main doors to defiantly wave a giant pink flag. MPs were locked in the buildin9 until after midnight as demonstrators blocked all the other exits.

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