Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales, has said he would personally support new legislation outlawing incitement to homophobia.
In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Hain said that the government must make sure there are no hate crimes against any group in the UK.
When asked if he would support specific legislation covering sexual orientation, he replied:
“I do not know if this has come on to the government agenda, if you are asking for my personal view of this the answer is yes.”
In January Home Office minister Tony McNulty vowed to review homophobic incitement laws amid calls for anti-gay remarks to be made illegal.
Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, Mr McNulty said that the issue is under review and vowed that once religious and racial incitement laws are implemented it will then be easier to see how to follow up with a law against homophobic harassment.
Other candidates for Deputy Leader of the Labour party have also supported calls for a new law.
A campaign spokesman for Education Secretary Alan Johnson told PinkNews.co.uk:
“Alan’s record on these issues is second to none. He put in place sexual orientation discrimination at the DTI and continues to make sure that the issue is centre stage at DfES. I am sure he would be in favour of such a law.”
Hazel Blears, Labour party chairman, commented:
“A specific new offence of incitement to homophobic violence is one way forward. I would add the need for better support for victims, more training for police in dealing with homophobic crimes, and specialist prosecutors within the legal system.
“As a Home Office Minister, I introduced the requirement for the police to record homophobic incidents to help the police to tackle homophobic attacks and abuse by targeting resources.”
A spokesman for Justice Minister Harriet Harman told PinkNews.co.uk that she would support legislation against homophobic incitement.
At present, anti-gay remarks can be brought under Public Order Offences, as seen in the conviction of Conservative councillor Peter Willows in Brighton last year after he described gay people as paedophiles.
Gay equality organisation Stonewall welcomed the support for a new law on homophobic incitement.
“Stonewall has been calling for a new offence and it’s really encouraging that so many of the senior politicians within the government are supporting it,” said Alan Wardle, director of public and parliamentary affairs.
“We look forward to the new Criminal Justice Bill to bring this forward.”