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Age of consent - commons vote for 16 overturned

June 1998

In 1967 homosexual acts between men aged 21 or over were decriminalised. In 1994 the minimum age (known as the ) was lowered to 18.

On 22nd June 1998 the British House of Commons voted to set the age of consent for gay men at 16 in a debate on the Crime and Disorder Bill, but this was overturned by the House of Lords, with the rebellion spearheaded by the right wing and anti gay former Conservative minister Baroness Young.

1998 saw the beginning of a three-year battle to lower the age of homosexual consent to 16. MPs and peers had a free vote.

The Commons voted on successive occasions for the age to be lowered to 16 but each time the House of Lords rejected the move.

Because of the way the legislation was drafted, MPs who voted for the age of homosexual consent to be lowered to 16 were at the same time also voting for the age at which girls could engage in buggery to be lowered from 18 to 16.

In the summer of 2000 the Government threatened to use the Parliament Acts to override the House of Lords and force the legislation through. In response, the House of Lords passed a compromise amendment which kept the age for buggery at 18 for boys and girls, but left intact the provisions in the Government Bill which permitted other homosexual acts at 16.

The Government rejected this discriminatory compromise and invoked the Parliament Acts.

In January 2001 the age of homosexual consent was reduced to 16, in line with heterosexual consent.

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