Gibraltar’s Supreme Court is to rule on whether the unequal age of consent for gays violates constitutional law.

The British territory has an age of consent of 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians but 18 for gay men, which contravenes European human rights law.

A bill to introduce the change was defeated four votes to eight in June last year. Opposition members voted against it on the grounds that there should be a full consultation on the age of consent for everyone and that it should have been a government bill, rather than a private members bill.

The Supreme Court has been asked by chief minister Peter Caruana and attorney general Ricky Rhoda QC to declare whether the difference breaches the constitutional rights of gay men.

The case is a landmark because it will be the first time the government has been allowed to seek a judge’s view on constitutional matters.

The Gibraltar Chronicle reports that despite the public interest in the case, the attorney general’s office has declined to release preliminary documentation it had filed with the court outlining the government’s reasoning. The arguments in support of the current age of consent are unknown.