sex disparities

Gibraltar’s Age of Consent For Gays Is 18. For Straights? 16. Let’s Have The Supreme Court Handle This One

Though Gibraltar lets the British handle its foreign relations, domestic issues are all its own. Which is why the Mediterranean nation (which Spain still lays claim to, and which reportedly has just one gay bar) is going to decide for itself at what age boys can have sex with other boys. Or rather, whether gay sex should be reserved for older kids.

A case before the Gibraltar Supreme Court challenges the age of consent law that says male-on-male sex is reserved for those 18 and above — even though heterosexual and lesbian relations are pegged at age 16. It’s a pretty stunning development for the country of 30,000, given Gibraltar’s failing gay rights record; gay sex was only decriminalized in 1993, when the age of consent was established.

Government lawyers will argue the law is just, because it is a safety measure; lowering the age of consent would be bad for society, and there are religious concerns blah blah blah. But Gib Gay Rights, the nation’s leading LGBT rights group, argues the different ages of consent are unconstitutional. (GGR has already raised its discrimination concerns with the European Commission.)

Interestingly, the case represents “the first time the court has been asked to test the constitutionality of a piece of legislation,” reports the Gibraltar Chronicle. And it wouldn’t be a gay rights case without international pressure: The British government is also involved, arguing the age of consent for gays must be equal to everyone else — a position it took even before the case reached the country’s highest court, threatening to force Gibraltar’s hand by passing its own legislation forced upon its territory.

And if the court decides the different ages of consent violate the constitution? Don’t expect the justices to say which age is appropriate. Chief Justice Anthony Dudley indicated the court will only address the constitutionality of having different rules for different types of sex, not whether 16 or 18 is the appropriate age of consent. Which means either heteros are going to see their age go up, or gays will see theirs go down. And who wants to take a bet as to whether the straights or gays will set the precedent?