The unequal age of consent for gay men in New South Wales will remain a conscience vote issue for state Labor MPs -“ a situation branded this week as ridiculous by Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Somali Ghosh.

In a press statement issued after a meeting between the Lobby and a representative from the attorney-general’s office, Lobby co-convenors said they would still push for a government bill to equalise the age of consent.

We are not asking for revolutionary reform. It is an embarrassment for NSW that we remain the last state with these draconian laws, Ghosh said.

A university report into the effects of the unequal age of consent which was released last year argued that the current situation had negative health and welfare impacts on young gay men -“ but this seems not to have dissuaded Labor from viewing the issue as a conscience matter.

Equality is not a matter of conscience, and neither is the health and welfare of young gay men, argued Lobby treasurer Rob McGrory. Despite the hard work of some Labor politicians, such as Jan Burnswoods who has introduced equalising age of consent legislation into parliament three times, the Labor Party continues to not show leadership on this issue.

Ghosh said the Lobby had had a more promising response from the Greens, who vowed to help pressure the incoming government on the age of consent issue.

The Greens also undertook to work with the Lobby on the issue of Anti-Discrimination Act reform, Ghosh reported. The Lobby wants to have marital status replaced with relationship status in the text of the legislation, and is also seeking the removal of current Act provisions which give exemptions to religious-based organisations.

The Lobby will be meeting with representatives from the Liberal Party and the Australian Democrats next week.

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