Activity 3: Changes 1994–2000
This activity relates to the entry ‘2000 (Legal) Equal age of consent’ that appears in the timeline in Section 2.1.
In 1994 Parliament had rejected equalising the age of consent for gay men to that for heterosexual couples. What had changed since 1994 to enable the legislation to pass in 2000?
There is no definitive answer to this question. The European Commission of Human Rights had ruled in 1997 in Sutherland v UK that the age of consent should be the same for gay men as for heterosexual couples. This put political pressure on the government, but the Commission could not compel the UK government to comply. There had been a general election in 1997 which had seen the Conservative government ousted and the Labour party sweep to power with a large majority. This meant that many of those voting on the proposed changes in the House of Commons had changed. Perhaps just as importantly, and possibly also reflected in the changed membership of the House of Commons, public attitudes towards homosexuality were changing.