undoing Justinian's cruel Code

Is that a basball bat in his right hand?

I admire a minds that can think in terms of millennia! Well, those who run the Catholic Church may be an exception, but perhaps it's because they only think in terms of millennia - other millennia.

This is the complete text of a July 31 press release from ILGA-Europe, the European region of the International Lebian and Gay Association:

Europe free of laws banning same-sex relationships for the first time in 1,500 years

On 1st August 2003, with the entry into force of a new penal code in Armenia, the last law in any country of Europe outlawing relationships between people of the same sex will be eliminated.

For the first time in many centuries, and probably since the enactment of [Catholic] Byzantine Emperor Justinian's legal code in the 6th Century AD, there will be no part of Europe where lesbians, gays and bisexuals face a threat of criminal prosecution simply because of their love for a person of the same sex.

While the process of repealing laws banning same-sex relationships goes back two hundred years to the Napoleonic Code, the major changes have come about in the last half-century: in 1950 two-thirds of today's 48 European countries still criminalised relations between women and between men, or between men only.

There were two key factors in accelerating the process of change: first, a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 1981 that these laws
violated the European Convention on Human Rights; and secondly, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the subsequent accession of the countries of Central and East Europe to the Council of Europe and to the European Convention.

The legal change in Armenia was made a condition of that country's membership of the Council of Europe in 2001, following lobbying by ILGA-Europe of the Council's parliamentary assembly.

A new criminal code was approved by the National Assembly on 18th April 2003, with ratification by the President on 30th April, and entry into force on 1st August.

Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive Director, commented "this is an important milestone in the achievement of LGBT rights in Europe. But it is just the beginning. A number of countries - Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Serbia/Montenegro, and the United Kingdom - still have discriminatory provisions in the criminal law. 33 European countries provide no legal recognition whatsoever for same-sex partners. And, of course, legal equality is itself only one element in the fight against discrimination".

Note for editors

While Armenia falls outside the usual geographical definition of Europe, it is generally accepted as falling within the political concept of Europe, as exemplified by its membership of the Council of Europe.