Current Affairs

Opposition parties differ on homophobic incitement law

Tony Grew May 21, 2007
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The Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have responded to the discussion of an offence of homophobic incitement.

Candidates for the Deputy Leader of the Labour party have given their support to such a law.

Peter Hain, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson all backed calls for a new law to outlaw anti-gay hatred.

Hazel Blears said it was one way forward alongside other measures such as better support for victims.

The Conservative Shadow Minister for Equality, Eleanor Laing MP, told

“I am very pleased that the Labour deputy leadership contest has meant this subject is receiving proper attention.

“The point is not that we need further legislation but that, by all working together, existing legislation is properly enforced and that we change attitudes.”

Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Equality spokesperson Lorely Burt MP said:

“The Liberal Democrats have long supported the introduction an ‘incitement of homophobic hatred’ offence similar to current racial hatred laws.

“If this is what Peter Hain is implying then we would support that. However, we must ensure the wording is precise so we do not end up with another ‘incitement to religious hatred’ debacle.”

The Racial and Religious Hatred Act was given Royal Assent in February last year but is yet to come into force.

This Act made provision about offences involving stirring up hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds.

The law proved controversial, with members of the House of Lords successfully amending the original bill.

They were concerned that religious books such as the Bible could fall foul of the law.

Amendments ensured that only people who intentionally use threatening words or behaviour, or display any written material which is threatening, to stir up racial or religious hatred, are guilty of an offence.

The amendments ensured that threatening words but not those that are merely abusive, mocking or insulting were covered by the Act.

A law protecting LGBT people similar to the Racial and Religious Hatred Act is a key campaigning aim of gay equality organisation Stonewall.

They welcomed the support from senior Labour politicians for a homophobic incitement law.

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