25th March 2010

Guernsey votes for equal age of consent

When asked to vote on equalising the age of consent for gay men, Guernsey’s politicians were unanimous. They dropped it from 18 to 16 on 25 March 2010, bringing Guernsey in line with the rest of the UK. At last, the rules were the same for same-sex for mixed-sex partners.

Male couple

Long-running issue

It wasn’t the first time they’d been asked to vote on the issue. It had been brought up in 1999 by Deputy Carol Steere when the existing age of consent for homosexual acts had been 21. She had proposed reducing it to 16. However, dropping it five years in one go was seemingly too much for the States at that time. Deputies had instead voted to cut it to 18. British MPs had voted to lower it to 16 in the UK just a few days earlier.

Deputies had been warned after the 1999 vote that not bringing it into line with the age of consent for mixed-gender couples could leave the States in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Another vote on the issue had been tabled in 2007, when Jersey had already equalised its age of consent. However, other business had got in the way and, in the end, there had been no time to hold it. It was therefore 11 years until the issue was properly revisited in 2010. This time, it was the Home Department that had proposed the change.

Plenty of notice

The press and broadcast media started to publicise the upcoming vote at the start of the month. The BBC reported on the reactions from various church leaders, which ranged from full acceptance from the leader of the Methodist Church (“It’s important that people are treated the same regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or racial background”) to disapproval from the Catholic dean who said he “doesn’t go along with it”. The Anglican dean had declined to comment until after the vote.

Both Alderney and Sark soon followed Guernsey’s lead. At the same time as equalising the age of consent, Guernsey’s Deputies lifted the restriction on the number of men who could have sex together.


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Other events that occured in March