London (CNSNews.com) - As British lawmakers removed the last hurdle to equalizing the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual sex, activists are now calling on the government to drop all restrictions, legalizing among other things sex in public toilets and other "cruising" areas.
The House of Commons Thursday voted to lower the age of consent for homosexual men from 18 to 16 (17 in Northern Ireland), bringing it in line with the age at which heterosexuals may legally have sex.
Lawmakers were given a free vote on the conscience issue, which passed its second reading by 263 to 102, a majority of 161.
Earlier attempts to do so were stymied by the upper House of Lords, but the latest move will see the bill brought into force later this year. The Labor government is employing a rarely-used law to enable it to push through the bill without Lords' consent.
The homosexual advocacy group Outrage has now presented a submission to the Home Office calling for all legislative restrictions on homosexual activity to be lifted.
Outrage said, "The whole basis of the current homosexual control laws is moralistic and based on a largely medieval concept of Christianity which we believe has no place in a pluralistic democratic society."
"We do not believe that consensual actions between adults, no matter how bizarre they might appear to the majority, are any concern of the law or its agents," Outrage said.
It called on the government to legalize "group sex in private, including sado-masochistic games" and said furthermore the concept of "private" should be extended to "include public lavatory cubicles and after-dark 'cruising' areas."
"Since recreational sex is a natural activity and popular pursuit, all laws which seek to control it should be abolished."
Although the organization has been pushing for the age of consent to be lowered to 16 for homosexuals, it seems this will not be enough - it says "sensitive consideration should be given to examples of experimentation between those just above and just below a fixed age of consent."
The Evangelical Alliance, representing evangelical churches across Britain, called the decision made by the House of Commons "hugely disappointing."
"The Evangelical Alliance has campaigned from the start of this debate to keep the age of consent for homosexuals at 18," spokesperson Jill Howard told CNSNews.com Friday.
"The government seems clearly out of step with the public mood which, like the churches' voice in this debate, is to want moral guidelines for our children."
Before the vote, the alliance's council sent Prime Minister Tony Blair a letter saying homosexuality is not the moral equivalent of heterosexuality and that the law should reflect this.
It called for the "upholding of the united belief of the majority of religions that homosexuality and heterosexuality are different."
Addressing the Commons during the debate, Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative Party's spokesperson on home affairs, noted the age of consent for homosexuals had been lowered to 18 from 21 just six years ago.
"It's wrong that a young person of 16 should be free in law to embark on a course of action that might lead to a lifestyle which would separate him, maybe permanently, from the mainstream life of marriage and family.
"The rush for political correctness does not take into account the realities of young people and the needs they have," she said.
The government initiative followed a European Court of Human Rights ruling that current British law contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
In an attempt to ease concerns about the effects of the change - another Conservative lawmaker in an earlier debate called the new law a "predator's charter" - the government incorporated a clause creating a new criminal offence relating to the "abuse of trust".
Anyone aged 18 or over who engages in any sexual activity with a younger person, over whom they hold a position of trust, will be breaking the law. It aims to protect vulnerable 16 and 17-year-old children from those such as teachers, who may attempt to take advantage of them.
The government is considering a range of reforms to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Among other benefits, same-sex couples will enjoy the same employment rights as others.
It is also trying to throw out a clause that bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools by local councils, although concerted opposition in the House of Lords has slowed down the process.
Meanwhile a European Christian television channel has been fined $32,000 by Britain's independent television watchdog for running an advertisement that called homosexuality "an abomination."
The Independent Television Commission also queried criticism in the ad to British abortion and divorce laws, and an assertion that "satanic hordes have occupied the principal palaces of power in Europe."
The advert was promoting a rally in London last April, led by American evangelist Morris Cerullo.