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JK Rowling’s explosive views on trans people won’t be prosecuted under new hate crime bill, says justice secretary

Josh Milton August 17, 2020
JK Rowling transgender

JK Rowling (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland’s justice secretary said that JK Rowling would not be prosecuted for her torrent of social media posts about trans people under a new hate crime bill.

Scottish National Party cabinet minister Humza Yousaf told Holyrood that the Hate Crime Bill, which has sowed criticism from top LGBT+ activists, law enforcement campaign groups, legal agencies and the Catholic Church, would not make Rowling’s comments a crime.

In tightly packed Twitter threads or sprawling blog posts, Rowling has relentlessly voiced her opinion on one of the most vulnerable and marginalised demographics in Britain with takes that have alarmed LGBT+ activists. Many have accused the author of spreading misinformation or stoking hatred.

With hate crime rates mushrooming in Scotland, the legislation put forward by Yousaf aims to modernise existing law by, in part, taking into account offenders “stirring up” hatred. “Stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal,” Youfas said in a statement on the government’s website.

‘JK Rowling putting out a tweet as she did would just not be prosecuted under the hate crime bill’, says Scotland justice sec.

Fielding criticism about the bill’s wording, Yousaf stressed to the outlet that: “If you were to say a trans man is not a real man or trans woman is not a real woman, you would not be prosecuted under the bill that I am intending to bring forward, so long as you didn’t do it in a threatening or abusive way that is intended or likely stir up hatred.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, has forwarded new hate crime legislation that, he said, would not lead to JK Rowing being prosecuted for sharing her anti-trans views online. (Fraser Bremner-Pool/Getty Images)
Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, has forwarded new hate crime legislation that, he said, would not lead to JK Rowing being prosecuted for sharing her anti-trans views online. (Fraser Bremner-Pool/Getty Images)

“So if I went up to a trans man, put them up against the wall and said, ‘You’re not a real man’, or burst into a meeting with 100 people, and it was a meeting of trans men, and said, ‘Trans men are not real men’, then potentially, you know, if I was being threatening or abusive and likely to stir up hatred, then I would be committing a crime.

“But JK Rowling putting out a tweet as she did, expressing her views, would just not be prosecuted under the hate crime bill.”

In 2019, the Scottish government proposed a draft bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act – the bedrock of gender recognition law – and potentially pave a path to introduce self-identification. But one year and one consultation later, and nothing has changed for trans people.

All the while, anti-trans groups have, with increasing force, sought to sweep the trans rights into a welter of thorny issues that have little or nothing to do with what the GRA actually is as a piece of legislation. As much as public support, especially among cis women, is high, Rowling waded into the debate with what many said were misleading claims about the GRA.

As a result, Yousaf acknowledged that “undoubtedly” the GRA reforms still being in the pipeline has impacted the hate crime bill’s reception. He said it would “foolish of me to pretend otherwise”.

The bill has been torpedoed by an array of bodies, including the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Scottish Police Federation, the Catholic Church, the Humanist Society and the Secular Society. While academics and activists, including Peter Tatchell, published an open letter raising concerns against the bill.

More: Hate crime, Hate Crime Bill, JK Rowling, Scotland, Trans, transphobia

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