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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Parliament to Debate Lowering Gay Age of Consent

LONDON -- In a social and legal anomaly, homosexual British teenagers break the law every time they make love.

But they could soon be freed from this criminal limbo when members of parliament, free of party constraint, vote on whether to lower the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 16 to bring them into line with everyone else.

Next Monday's vote in the 651-seat House of Commons could hardly be more badly timed for Prime Minister John Major, whose "back to basics" campaign for a return to traditional core family values has been left in tatters over a string of sexual scandals in the ruling Conservative Party.

Members of parliament, their sex lives now under the microscope of Britain's voracious tabloid press, may not be ready to take a liberal stance over gay sex.

But Edwina Currie, the outspoken former health minister who proposed the vote, insists the timing is right and argues the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

"Our personal morality is our own affair," says Currie, who has won the backing of the opposition Liberal Democrat and Labour parties but still needs to win over wavering Conservatives.

"The age of 21 is ludicrously high," she says. "It is widely ignored and it turns gay young men into criminals."

Currie's campaign has won backing from doctors who argue that lowering the age of consent should help them explain to the vulnerable young the mortal dangers of AIDS. Conservative opponents are outraged, however, and say that a change could lay teenagers open to predators.

But for 16-year-old gay Euan Sutherland, the argument is simple:

"My brother is 19 and he can bring his girlfriend back here and they can sleep together," he told The Independent newspaper. "I'm very happy for them. But when I bring someone back I am breaking the law."