The government of Gibraltar is failing to protect sexual minorities, say gay rights campaigners in the territory.
Gib Gay Rights Group are to approach the European Commission in Brussels to raise their concerns about the government’s attitude towards LGBT people.
Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom, but the government in London have no control over social policy.
Labour MP Emily Thornberry recently asked questions in the House of Commons about the unequal age of consent and general discrimination issues in Gibraltar.
The response from Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon was unsatisfactory, say Gib Gay Rights Group (GGR).
He ignored her question on the equalisation of the age of consent and replied in broad terms that the territory’s new constitution does grant protection from discrimination.
GGR was established in 2000 by Felix Alvarez, and in a community of 27,000 people where politics is dominated by the issue of sovereignty they are openly campaigning for rights equal to those enjoyed by gay people in the UK.
Spain claims that Gibraltar is their territory. It was seized by Britain in 1704, and its strategic position at the juncture of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean meant that the UK has retained the territory.
GGR are critical of the government, led by the Gibraltar Social Democrats, for its slowness in responding to the group’s request for the party to clarify its policy on sexual minorities.
LGBT people in the territory have little legal protection from discrimination. Up until 1992, all male homosexual relationships were illegal.
At present male homosexual sex is legal at 18, rather than 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex.
“In the UK citizens cannot be discriminated against in shops, hotels, bars or anywhere else when they act as ordinary citizens in the pursuit of goods and services,” said Mr Alvarez, referring the Sexual Orientation Regulations due to be presented to Parliament next month.
“This contrasts starkly with Gibraltar’s situation where no such protections exist and discrimination at the point of rendering or obtaining goods and services may be legally denied to a person by virtue only of their sexual orientation.
“At European level several questions have been tabled regarding the fact that Gibraltar continues to discriminate on the issue of the legal age of consent for sexual minority citizens and counter to judgments from the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.