|Is anyone (possibly with a legal background) able to clarify the workings behind the age of consent? In this country it's 16 for straight/lesbian people and 18 for gay men, but does it not differ in America based on the older partners age? Furthermore, does anyone know the reason for this disparity between gay/straight ages of consent?|
At the risk of sounding obvious, history. Homosexual sex between men was criminalised in the Criminal Law Amendment act of 1885. The age of homosexual consent in the UK - or more precisely the age of consent between two men in a private location unaccompanied by others - was set at 21 when homosexuality was first legalised, on the recommendation of the Wolfenden Report (1957). This is the Sexual Offences act (1967). Note - at this point gay sex is still illegal in Scotland, and remains so until fucking 1980.
In 1994 a bill was table providing the options of keeping the age of consent for gay men at 21, bringing it in line with the age of heterosexual consent at 16 or, as a compromise, lowering it to 18. The compromise is gone for, as the lowering to 16 is considered unacceptable by the Commons at that point, but the setting of the age of consent at 21 is acknowledged to be untenable, as it criminalises acts between people who are in all other ways considered to be legal adults. This remained an unlovely fudge, and one that it would in the end get knocked over by the European Court of Human Rights - in 1997 - so in 1998 an amendment to the Sexual Offences act to lower the age of consent to 16 is tabled. The Lords, headed by the odious Baroness Young, fight a vicious rearguard action, and eventually the bill is forced through by the Parliament Act in 2000.
The US is set up in a federal system, with each state setting ages of consent - in some states a banding system is practised as it is in the Nertherlands. Federal Law Enforcement defines a minor as 18 for the purposes of use of interstate communication for enticing or arranging sex, and for transportation across state lines for sex, but probaqbly only if the sex you then have is also illegal accoridng to the age of consent laws in the state you end up in, which is a grey area. The firm line for engaging in interstate or extra-state commerce for sexual purposes is a sliding scale where a minor is defined as 12 or over and under 16, with the older party 4 years older - so, a 15-year old haviing sex with a 14 -year old would not be prosecutable for a federal offence as long as they were legally able to have sex in the state they travelled to, whereas a 17-year old having sex with a 13-year old, I think, would be. This aims to prevent clashes between state and federal age of consent laws - Pennsylvania, for example, has much the same "16 if there is a 4-year or greater age gap between participants, 13 in all other cases)" rule.
Of course, this is generally the age of consent for straight sex - gay sex is another question again.