The Justice Secretary has announced that a new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation will be introduced in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.

Jack Straw added that he would consider similar protections for trans and disabled people.

The House of Commons met today for the first time since July to hear a statement from the Prime Minister on Iraq and to give the bill its second reading.

“It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last ten years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality,” Mr Straw told MPs.

“It is time for the law to recognise this.”

Gay rights advocates had been lobbying for a homophobic incitement law for more than six months.

Fundamentalist religious groups are claiming their members could face seven years in jail for expressing their views about homosexuality under the proposed new legislation.

Stonewall chief executive, Ben Summerskill, said: “We’re delighted.

“We’ve worked tirelessly over the last six months, seeking to persuade ministers to match existing race incitement laws with identical protections for sexual orientation.

“A new offence will help deter extremists who stir up hatred against lesbian and gay people.

“These protections aren’t about preventing people expressing their religious views in a temperate way.

“However, we refuse to accept any longer that there’s no connection between extreme rap lyrics calling for gay people to be attacked or fundamentalist claims that all gay people are paedophiles, and the epidemic of anti-gay violence disfiguring Britain’s streets.

“Our traditional opponents are already spreading typically lurid misinformation about what the new law might mean and will try and get it overturned.

“We anticipate, as always, a tough battle in the House of Lords but remain determined to secure complete equality in the criminal law.”

The Christian Institute claim that the proposed incitement law restricts free speech, targets Christians and will stifle debate about homosexuality.

Earlier this year the institute failed to stop the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations which protect LGB people from discrimination in goods and services.

It objects to the extension of incitement to racial hatred laws to sexual orientation as “homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle. Many ‘gay rights’ activists would say that their sexual orientation is a choice, not a genetic characteristic.”

Christians are already protected from incitement to religious hatred by law.